DAVAO CITY – Beneficiaries of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) Barangay Development Program (BDP) in Davao del Norte town said the community rebuilder initiative will definitely change their lives.
Barangays Semong and Tiburcia, two of 14 villages in Kapalong town, and Barangay Concepcion in Asuncion town, were identified as beneficiaries of BDP, NTF ELCAC's hallmark program that aims to bring development to former communist-affected communities
Semong village chief Felipe Portes said the PHP20-million fund would greatly help them realize their projects.
“We thank the national government for the budget. For the past years, our barangay was a communist terrorist group (CTG)-infiltrated area and now it was declared insurgency-free,” he told the Philippine News Agency in a recent interview.
As agreed by the barangay council, Portes said the fund will be utilized for road concreting of three sitios (sub-communities).
Tiburcia’s Celso Quilla said their barangay did not get any road-concreting projects from the past administrations.
“This is the first time that our barangay availed of a road-concreting project. We thanked NTF-ELCAC for giving us the chance to be part of the BDP,” he added.
Quilla said Purok 4 to Purok 9 will benefit the most.
“We hope that this kind of program will be continued after the term of President Rodrigo Duterte. It really helped our barangay,” he said.
Kapalong Mayor Maria Theresa Timbol said the barangay beneficiaries deserve the reward for their efforts in rejecting CTGs.
“These are the barangays where the NPA are active in their extortion activities. Banana plantations were mostly situated here and the banana growers suffered a lot from the New People’s Army (NPA),” she added.
She said in Barangay Semong, where most of the Indigenous Peoples communities reside, road networks are important to transport their goods and products.
On the other hand, Barangay Concepcion, the lone BDP beneficiary in Asuncion town, will use the budget for road concreting and solar street light installation, according to village chief Frilan Amesona.
He said being chosen as one of the BDP beneficiaries brought hope to their community.
“We thanked the national government for recognizing Barangay Concepcion. Other barangays envy us because of BDP,” he said.
Semong, Tiburcia, and Concepcion are part of the 822 villages initially identified by NTF-ELCAC to have been cleared of CPP-NPA influence.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Under the 2021 national budget, a total of PHP19 billion is earmarked for NTF-ELCAC, PHP16.5 billion of which is allotted for the development of the 822 barangays.
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).
No to defunding
Timbol said defunding the BDP fund would be a big disservice to the barangays that fought long and hard to clear their communities of communist influence.
“I disagree 100 percent for its defunding. The PHP20-million budget is a big help to the barangays, especially to the poor residents. The local government unit is trying hard to address the needs of the barangays but our fund is not enough. That’s why this initiative under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration does not only give valuable projects but hope to the people as well,” she further said.
Quilla said that it is unjust to defund a program that addresses poverty.
“As a barangay leader, if they decide to defund it, we can no longer proceed with these projects because we cannot even afford to fund it. Our sources here are limited and we badly need help from the province and most importantly in the national government,” he said.
For Amesona, BDP will ultimately improve the lives of the people in the hinterland barangays.
“Our constituents are very excited about the projects. If in case the defunding will proceed, hope will run out in Barangay Concepcion," he added.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy said during the recent consultations in the three barangays that the BDP also restores the hope and freedom of communities cleared of the influence of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front.
She said the 822 villages located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas need support from the government because they have been “underserved from the very start.”
“They want to defund it? It is just like depriving the poor Filipinos to live a comfortable life and getting them out of poverty,” Badoy said.
“They (lawmakers) are taking from the poor people their best shot out of severe poverty and towards better lives for themselves and their children.”
At least six senators want to withdraw funding for the NTF-ELCAC and reallocate the budget to pandemic efforts.
The NTF-ELCAC was created by virtue of Executive Order 70 issued 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.” (PNA)