MANILA – The national government's anti-insurgency task force is the “solution” to decades-long armed conflict in the country, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque shrugged off Vice President Leni Robredo’s call to suspend fund releases for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and use them for cash aid for low-income households in areas placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Robredo earlier said the PHP13.1 billion allotted to provide one-time cash aid to about 10.7 million residents in Metro Manila or PHP1,000 per person or PHP4,000 per family may not be enough to pay for rent.
“Yung ELCAC po, ‘yan po ay solusyon para mawala na ang giyera dito sa ating bayan (The ELCAC, that’s our solution to end armed conflict in our country),” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
The NTF-ELCAC has been pushing through with the development projects in the barangays freed from the New People’s Army (NPA), an armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)
“Kaya nga po binibgyan natin ng pondo para sa mga proyekto na makakabuti sa kabuhayan—yung mga barangays na mayroon pong labanan dahil alam natin ang pagkagutom ang pinagmumulan ng labanan. Kung mali po ‘yan, bahala na po kayo, (That is the reason why we’re allocating funds for projects that can provide livelihood in areas where there is conflict because we know that hunger is one of the causes of insurgency. But if you think that’s wrong, that’s on you),” he added.
He was referring to the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program (BDP) which seeks to bring development to communities that are former conflict-prone areas and guerilla fronts of the CPP-NPA.
Of the PHP19 billion total budget of the NTF-ELCAC, PHP16.5 billion is allotted for the development of over 800 barangays cleared of insurgency.
Roque admitted that he is tired of explaining the purpose of having an anti-insurgency task force.
“Napapagod na po ako sumagot. Sabihin nalang niya kung anong gusto niya sabihin basta tayo magla-lockdown dahil ayaw nating mamatay ang karamihan ng kababayan natin (I am tired of answering her. She can just say whatever she wants to say. We’re imposing a lockdown because we don’t want more our people to die),” he said.
Meanwhile, he assured that the government is already looking for additional funding sources should there be a need for additional funds.
“Ibibigay ang kayang ibigay. Alam ko panahon ng eleksyon pero hindi po nangangako ng hindi maibibigay ngayon ng ating gobyerno (We will give what we can give. I know it’s almost time for election, but the government cannot make promises we can’t keep),” he added.
Roque said the executive department may also ask for a supplemental budget from Congress should it need additional funds to source the government’s cash subsidy program.
“Ang dahilan naman kung bakit hindi pa tayo nagsu-supplemental budget ay tinitignan natin kung tama nga yung budget natin sa 2021. Kung kulang po ‘yan, e pupunta naman at pupunta ang ehekutiba sa Congress for supplemental budget (The reason why we’re not yet asking for a supplemental budget is we think we have enough funds in the 2021 budget. If it is lacking, the executive department will eventually go to Congress to ask for a supplemental budget),” he said. (PNA)