BUTUAN CITY – The call of some senators to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) would be a blow to the Barangay Development Program (BDP) now being implemented by local government units (LGUs) and would undo the gains of the government's campaign against the decades-old insurgency.
This, according to Datu Rico Maca, the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of the town of San Miguel in Surigao del Sur, in an interview with the Philippine News Agency on Monday.
“I feel that some members of the Senate are not with us in the fight to end insurgency,” Maca said, emphasizing that it’s the communities and the locals who directly suffer from the terroristic activities of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
He noted that the government has made major breakthroughs in its fight against insurgency through Executive Order No. 70 that President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued in late 2018.
Under the EO 70, NTF-ELCAC is tasked as the front-line body to coordinate the government's anti-insurgency response with various agencies and local government units.
“We have reached out to these far-flung villages where the residents have suffered for a long period of time from the hands of the NPA rebels. The realization of the BDPs is critical in completely freeing these residents from the hands of the terrorist rebels,” Maca said.
In San Miguel town, a total of six far-flung villages will directly benefit from BDP with a PHP20-million budget each.
These barangays, mostly populated by indigenous peoples (IPs), include Bitaugan, Bagyang, Calatngan, Carromata, Umalag, and Bolhoon.
Maca said the PHP20-million BDP budget would be utilized to construct access roads for the said barangays.
“These roads will facilitate the delivery of government services to the people of the six barangays. The NPA rebels hate roads because they do not want government services for the people. The rebels want to make these people live in poverty constantly, blame the government, and urge them to fight the government,” Maca said.
He also called on the senators to reconsider their decision and instead consider the wider impact of BPD projects on the lives of ordinary civilians.
Six senators have expressed interest in defunding the NTF-ELCAC, including the BDP, and want the funds diverted to the drive against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the country.
At present, a total of 822 barangays in the country will receive PHP20 million each for BDP project implementation, including road networks, classrooms, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and livelihood projects.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)