MANILA – The call of the lawmakers to defund the country’s anti-insurgency task force would “undo” the gains of the government’s campaign against the decades-old insurgency, a regional development and security official said on Thursday.
“The Filipino people deserve our continuing effort towards social justice and inclusive development. The call to defund the NTF-ELCAC would be a blow to the huge portion of the budget for barangay programs, now being implemented by local government units,” Energy Secretary and concurrent Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) of Region IV-B (Mimaropa) Alfonso Cusi said in a statement.
Earlier, several lawmakers made the call to defund the NTF-ELCAC and instead use the PHP19 billion budget for the low-income earners affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the PHP19 billion total budget, PHP16.5 billion is allotted for the Barangay Development Program (BDP).
Each recipient barangay would receive PHP20 million for the following: 1-kilometer farm-to-market road worth PHP12 million; classrooms (PHP3 million); water and sanitation systems (PHP2 million); health station (PHP1.5 million); and livelihood projects (PHP1.5 million)
“The NTF-ELCAC’s goal is to bring basic programs and services closer to the people especially those from far-flung and displaced communities, and to encourage communist armed groups to return to the mainstream and be active members of the society,” Cusi said. “It has been providing livelihood for people in the remote areas, and allows former rebels to take on productive and peaceful roles with technical trainings and even with loans to start up their livelihood.”
He said programs such as the construction of farm-to-market roads, school buildings and health stations, setting up rural electrification, conducting reconstruction, rehabilitation and repair activities in preparation and response to natural and man-made disasters, providing housing, and making Covid-19 vaccinations and other health projects are some of the projects provided under the NTF- ELCAC’s DBP.
The NTF-ELCAC was created by virtue of Executive Order 70 issued by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018 “to provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the Whole-of-Nation Approach to aid in the realization of the collective aspirations for inclusive and sustainable peace.”
Cusi said the NTF-ELCAC ’s mission is to support the country’s shared goal of ending the decades-long thievery, mass murder, terrorism and economic sabotage being done by the communist terrorist group (CTG).
“Communism and the continuing armed conflict that their ideology espouses has hurt the people and this nation for so long. We cannot stand at the sidelines and watch as young people, and our indigenous countrymen are lured into this culture of violence,” he said.
He said the NTF- ELCAC has been providing the means to demystify and debunk the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) that have victimized the poor and misinformed the people.
“The government is serious in battling the communist insurgency problem which is the biggest peace spoiler in the country,” he said. “The NTF-ELCAC offers a holistic approach that would resolve conflicts deeply rooted in poverty and boosts the delivery of social services in remote areas.”
Cusi said livelihood projects of the government through the NTF-ELCA’s BDP are being funneled in identified conflict areas with the aim of uplifting the lives of the recipients.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. earlier said a total of 525 out of 822 barangays cleared of insurgency have already endorsed their respective programs and projects to the Department of Budget and Management while the remaining 237 are in the process of endorsing their plans.
“After thorough verification of the proposals at the national level, the BDP package of 483 barangays have already been approved with projects worth PHP9.66 billion ready for release to the provincial and city governments for the benefit of barangays under their jurisdiction,” he said. (PNA)