ILOILO CITY – Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. said Friday the development fund intended for insurgency-cleared villages should not be recalled as he proposed that the same level of support be extended to all barangays.
Defensor said the Barangay Development Program (BDP) of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is an initiative of the government with the end goal of bringing development to former conflict-hit communities.
As development goes to the mountains, insurgency is pushed back, he said in response to the calls to defund the NTF-ELCAC.
“We need that. Among others, insurgency begins where the road ends. That is true with other projects also. That is true with respect to electrification. That is true with respect to Internet signal, to street light, water, education, and livelihood,” Defensor said in a media interview.
A huge fund, he said, is a “rare opportunity for the barangay, especially the highland barangays.”
The BDP was appropriated PHP16 billion out of the PHP19 billion NTF-ELCAC budget for 2021.
Its implementation covers 822 barangays in the country that have been cleared of influences of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA).
In Iloilo province, 36 barangays from the municipalities of Igbaras, Miagao, Leon, and Tubungan have been identified to receive PHP20 million each.
It will be implemented by local governments and not by the task force, Defensor said, as the BDP allocation goes directly to local government units from the Department of Budget and Management.
The funds have yet to be downloaded but the provincial engineering office has begun crafting the program of work.
“In fact, we have to expand our engineering department so that we can cope with the work. We have already mobilized,” he added.
Defensor said the projects would respond to the needs of the barangay to quell the insurgency problem.
The PHP20 million budget for each recipient barangay can be used for various projects, such as the construction of farm-to-market roads, classrooms, water and sanitation systems, and health stations, as well as the creation of various livelihood programs.
These projects have been identified as a means to stave off the influences of the CPP-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)