TACLOBAN CITY – Mayors in Samar provinces have expressed concern over calls to realign the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), saying the move will deprive remote communities of the chance to benefit from development.
Matuguinao, Samar Mayor Aran Boller said on Tuesday the proposal to defund the NTF-ELCAC, which includes allocations for Barangay (village) Development Program (BDP), shows insensitivity to the needs of rural communities.
“I wish our senators will realize that more people in remote areas died and more lives have been shattered due to armed conflict brought by the New People’s Army (NPA) than those who perished from Covid-19,” Boller told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview in reaction to reports that some senators are pushing for diversion of BDP funds to measures against coronavirus disease in the country.
“Residents in several communities have never seen a concrete road or path walk even at their village centers. This is their only chance to see development. We promised them development and we have to keep that promise through BDP," he added.
Matuguinao, a fifth-class town with a population of nearly 8,000, is a recipient of BDP with 12 formerly NPA-influence villages covered.
Each village is bound to receive PHP20 million for basic infrastructure and livelihood activities in 2022 under BDP.
The local government’s intensified campaign against insurgency compelled over 200 rebels in their town, including mass supporters to surrender this year.
In Silvino Lubos, Northern Samar, Mayor Leo Jarito said defunding the BDP is a big loss to local government units like them which has been on the frontline in the fight against aged-old insurgency.
“For several years, we have been pushing for the opening of access roads leading to the five villages considered as a priority for BDP. Fund diversion will stall this plan,” Jarito told PNA.
The mayor urged lawmakers to consider the plight of poor families in rural communities who have suffered from terrorist activities of the NPA before backing the fund realignments call.
At least five remote villages in Silvino Lubos town will be covered by the BDP.
Silvino Lubos, a fourth-class town has a population of over 15,000.
Several upland communities were influenced by the NPA due to poor road access and high illiteracy.
BDP is a hallmark program of NTF-ELCAC with the end goal of bringing development to former conflict-prone communities.
Of the PHP19 billion total budget of the NTF-ELCAC, PHP16.5 billion is allotted for the development of 822 villages cleared of insurgency.
Each village will get an outlay of PHP20 million with PHP12 million intended for the one-kilometer farm-to-market road, PHP3 million for classrooms, PHP2 million for water and sanitation systems, PHP1.5 million for health station, and PHP1.5 million for livelihood projects.
On December 4, 2018, the President issued Executive Order No. 70 creating the NTF-ELCAC and institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach towards obtaining sustainable peace in the hopes of putting an end to more than 50 years of local communist insurgency.
The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)