MANILA – Lawmakers have "misplaced" objections to the proposed PHP28.1 billion budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in 2022 which are intended to fund development projects in conflict-affected barangays, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.
Lorenzana said the solons should explain the reason for their call to defund the anti-insurgency task force.
"Ang masasabi ko lang ay mukhang misplaced naman 'yung kanilang mga objection. Kung mag-object sila, then they are objecting development ng mga barangays na kailangang kailangan nating tulungan, so sila ay magpapaliwanag sa mga tao kung bakit nila gustong itigil 'yun (I can say that their objections are misplaced, if they are objecting, then they are objecting to the development of barangays that need help, they better explain that to the residents on why they want to stop their development)," he said in an interview with SMNI News Channel.
The Makabayan bloc in Congress and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon are among those calling to trim the proposed NTF-ELCAC budget.
Under the proposed 2022 national budget, the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Project (BDP) will rehabilitate around 1,406 barangays in conflict-hit areas located mostly in New People's Army (NPA) infested areas of Samar and Bicol Region.
Lorenzana called the proposal a "good one" and said that local government officials were in favor of the development projects in their communities.
"Kailangan ipaliwanag ng mga mambabatas na 'yan kung bakit nila gustong itigil 'yun (the lawmakers need to explain why they want it stopped). Are they against development, they do not want the barangays to prosper kaya gusto nilang matigil 'yung (that's why they want to stop) ELCAC fund," he added.
The BDP is the NTF-ELCAC hallmark program to bring government projects development projects in conflict-afflicted and geographically isolated villages that have been considered "cleared" from the influence of communist rebels.
The BDP aims to bring farm-to-market roads, classrooms, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and livelihood to these barangays.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-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)