BACOLOD CITY – Two city mayors in the northern part of Negros Occidental have expressed support to sustain the funding for insurgency-cleared villages amid calls of some lawmakers to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“The motion of the (senators) is tantamount to throwing away all the efforts in this peaceful fight against insurgency when it already showed promising result,” San Carlos City Mayor Renato Gustilo said in a statement issued through the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade and 79th Infantry Battalion on Thursday.
“I strongly oppose the proposed defunding of the Local Government Support Fund-Support to Barangay Development Program (LGSF-SBDP) under the NTF-ELCAC,” he added.
In San Carlos City, five barangays have been identified as insurgency-cleared, these are the villages of Buluangan, Codcod, Guadalupe, Nataban, and Quezon.
“As a leader whose place had been a haven of lawless armed groups, I really welcome this move of the NTF-ELCAC to empower barangay communities, wherein five of our barangays are already recipients of PHP20 million each for development projects,” Gustilo said.
He added that the funding of projects under the Barangay Development Program (BDP) already gained the trust of former mass supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) towards the government’s aim for lasting peace.
Escalante City Mayor Melecio Yap Jr. said that defunding the NTF-ELCAC will “not only put to a halt to the successful pro-active programs but will ultimately hamper government efforts to put an end to communism and insurgency”.
“We, as a people, appeal to our legislators to heed reason and abort all plans of defunding the NTF-ELCAC. Instead, let us take steps in strengthening the nation’s approach towards an insurgent- and violent-free country,” he said in a statement also issued through the Philippine Army.
Yap said the “peace-loving people” of Escalante “highly-commend” the efforts of the NTF-ELCAC in the anti-insurgency campaign and the implementation of programs such as the BDP.
“This will pave the way for the construction of roads, water systems, and facilities that will cater to the needs of the people,” he added.
Of the 26 insurgency-cleared villages in Negros Occidental listed under the LGSF-SBDP funding, a total of 14 are located in Escalante.
These are barangays Alimango, Binaguiohan, Buenavista, Dian-ay, Japitan, Langub, Libertad, Mabini, Malasibog, Paitan, Pinapugasan, Rizal, Udtongan, and Washington.
The BDP is a hallmark program of the NTF-ELCAC with the end goal of bringing development to former conflict-prone communities.
Each of the insurgency-cleared villages has been allocated PHP20-million assistance, including one-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 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)