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Marcos recognizes NTF-ELCAC’s efforts in making Davao insurgency-free

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Thursday recognized the role of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in declaring the Davao region as "insurgency-free."

In his speech at the Eastern Mindanao Command Headquarters in Panacan, Davao City, Marcos acknowledge the efforts of the Philippine military, particularly the Eastern Mindanao Command, in "ensuring the protection and security of our people through your various civil and military operations."

He said the law enforcement authorities support towards the anti-insurgency task force has improved the living conditions of the residents.

"In many ways, the program NTF-ELCAC has been around for a long time in different forms. During the Vietnam War, it was called the Doctrine of Hearts and Minds. Later on, it was still always referred to --- earlier than that, we used to call it in government civic action, from the military," Marcos said.

"But the NTF-ELCAC added many new dimensions to the concept. And that whole-of-nation concept that was attached to the NTF-ELCAC was I think what brought us success," he added.

"Because instead of the rebel returnee or even the rebel fighter --- instead of them only dealing with the military, now they deal with the entire government. And whatever it is that the government can give, that one is what we will give to those who are in need and to take away the reason for them to continue fighting against the government," Marcos said.

It was the Regional Peace and Order Council–Davao (RPOC-11) that signed a resolution declaring the entire region as free from insurgency.

The NTF-ELCAC, which was created during the Duterte administration, is mandated "to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the whole-of-the­ nation approach for the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict affected areas and vulnerable communities, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuits  of the country's peace agenda.”

The task force became controversial during the previous administration for linking administration critics and other personalities to the communist movement — a practice called red-tagging.

'Bringers of peace'

Meanwhile, Marcos called on the state forces to "take an optimistic but cautious steps to mind that the goal of achieving long-lasting peace and order in the region cannot end just with this declaration."

"And so I say this to our armed forces, that we must see these developments that perhaps in a way we can say that the Armed Forces, the uniformed forces in our country, your mission has shifted, it has changed a little bit," said the President.

"Whereas before, we asked you to be war fighters. Now, we ask you to be bringers of peace. And the success of the NTF-ELCAC program and all of the efforts of our military, of our police have shown in the reaping of the benefits that we celebrate today that the Davao provinces are insurgency-free," he added.

Marcos said the gains should be sustained to prevent terrorist and lawless elements from recruiting, regrouping, and regaining power in the area.

Investment-ready destination

Amid this development, Marcos said Davao region can be pronounced as a tourism and investment-ready destination, as the declaration serves as a "timely platform" to boost the region's post-pandemic economic growth and leverage the region’s abundant resources and opportunities.

"In many ways, we have relaunched Davao as a tourism and investment destination. And I say that because in truth, Davao with its very active and vibrant economy, and the businesses who have been leading the way in Mindanao and do better than the national averages, have always been there," Marcos said.

The President is confident that the entire region will play an important role in the march of the country towards prosperity.

"It must also maintain its stature as a beacon of progress, where many facets of our landscapes and culture will be shared for those who will set foot on this rich land," said Marcos.

"It is my hope that all the things you have achieved here in Davao can also be replicated across the country," he added. — RSJ, GMA News