BORONGAN CITY, Jan. 16 (PIA) – – The 2020 milestones of the Eastern Visayas Regional Task Force – ELCAC were disclosed in a virtual presser organized and hosted by the Philippine Information Agency Head Erlinda Olivia Tiu on January 15.

In response to a question posed as to their milestone, Lt. Col Perfecto Penaredondo, Chief of Staff of the 8th Infantry Division (8th ID) said that despite the onset of the pandemic, the TF achieved significant milestones in the fight against insurgency.

For one, he reported that as of January 2020 came in, no less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte awarded P13-M E-CLIP benefits to 262 former rebels in San Isidro, Leyte.

At the same time, the provincial government of Leyte also provided 120 hectares of an area called Peace and Prosperity Village where the former rebels are now engaged in profitable farming.

The official also stated that an influx of surrenderrees came about where 93 were hard-core NPAs, 653 that belong to Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad, 1,416 Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) members, and 592 Militia ng Banyan.

“We also had a series of consultative meetings with former rebels to know what made them turn against the government and how they can successfully re-integrate into mainstream society.” said the army official.

As to ward-off communists from engaging with barangay officials, some 1,513 out of the 4,390 barangays have declared the NPAs as ‘persona non-grata.’

He added that all provinces have also declared NPAs as ‘persona non-grata.’

The official also took pride in saying that The Task Force has successfully engaged the religious sector in the fight against insurgency and the presence of Bishop Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog Diocese who joined them ‘demilitarize’ at least 400 firearms. The bishop is also one of the convenors of the Samar Island Partnership for Peace and Development (SIPPAD) which is now part of the RTF8- ELCAC TWG.

He also mentioned that the Poverty Reduction Livelihood and Employment Cluster (PRLEC) with TESDA as head has reached the most remote and conflict area Brgy. Balagon, in Can-avid, E. Samar and has brought skills training to the residents with the program Agrikultura at Kabuhayan Tungo sa Kaunlaran at Pangkapayapaan (AKKAP).

Significant arrests were also achieved notably the Tacloban 5 where high-ranking NPAs were cornered.

As the year 2020 brought in the pandemic COVID-19, the task force also assisted in the COVID-19 Response by assisting the local governments man border controls, transport logistics involving other units like the navy, coast guard and other security forces.

With all those accomplishments in the past year, Penaredondo said that the Task Force is willing to meet the year 2021 head-on. (nbq/PIA 8-E. Samar)