Some 1,500 residents in a far-flung, conflict-affected area here benefited from government services brought by the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RFT-ELCAC) Thursday.
The activity preceded the fourth regular meeting Caraga Region’s RFT-ELCAC, presided by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles, the Cabinet Officer for Development and Security (CORDS) for the region.
Led by Nograles, RFT-ELCAC members visited Barangay Mt. Carmel where over a thousand residents availed of services provided by various national government agencies.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Caraga (DILG-13) director Lilibeth Famacion said Mt. Carmel was chosen as the recipient of the caravan as it has been affected by armed conflicts spawned by the communist insurgency for years.
Nograles led the regular meeting that was also joined by Agusan del Norte Governor Dale Corvera, the Regional Development Council (RDC) chair and Surigao del Norte Governor Alexander Pimentel, the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) chair.
Addressing the villagers, Nograles said the “Serbisyo Caravan” is part of the government’s effort to bring basic services to the people in the countryside, especially in far-flung areas with reported presence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
“We are here in your village because we want to end the local communist conflict together. This is the mandate of President Rodrigo Duterte – to go down to your doorsteps to make you feel the presence of the government,” Nograles said.
Nograles said RFT-ELCAC was created as part of the government’s “whole-of-nation” approach in addressing the primary causes of the communist insurgency, such as poverty and injustice.
Under this concept, Nograles said issues surrounding insurgency is no longer the sole concern of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), but of all government agencies, stakeholders in the private sector, and the people in the community.
“The more our communities are infiltrated by the NPA the more the people are deprived of the government services because the rebels hamper the operations of the government workers,” he added.
Mt. Carmel barangay captain Merla Ajan thanked the RTF-ELCAC for choosing her village for the caravan.
“More than a thousand of our people here and also hundreds from the nearby barangays will benefit from this activity,” Ajan said.
She said Mt. Carmel has a total of 565 households and more than 2,600 residents who are mostly farmers engaged in growing vegetables, bananas, cacao, coconut, and corn.
Ajan also presented the issues and concerns in the area, especially on the need to improve the road network in the area.
Nograles assured the residents of the national government’s support to improve road access in the village.
“Ending the local communist armed conflicts is the concern of all, including you, the residents of this barangay and the nearby villages. Let us help one another to defeat insurgency to attain genuine peace and sustainable development in our communities,” Nograles said.
During the RFT-ELCAC meeting on the same day, Agusan del Norte Governor Santiago Cane and Bayugan City Mayor Kirk Asis thanked the participants for allowing the city host the gathering. (PNA)