DAVAO CITY – Slashing the 2022 budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) from PHP24 billion to PHP 4 billion would have a heavy blow to government efforts against insurgency and to the provinces relying on the Barangay Development Program (BDP), a governor in the Davao Region said Monday.
In an interview, Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy said the people residing in former lairs of the New People’s Army (NPA), would eventually lose hope and possibly lose their trust in the government if the BDP will not push through, following the Senate Committee on Finance's decision to cut the NTF-ELCAC's budget for 2002.
“It is very unfortunate that these senators allow this [cutting down of budget] to happen. I reiterated to our senator friends especially Senator Angara that this is a big blow to the local government units (LGUs),” Uy told the Philippine News Agency.
A hallmark program of NTF-ELCAC with the end goal of bringing development to former conflict-prone communities, the BDP is part of the government‘s whole-of-nation approach in fighting the insurgency by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in the countryside.
The program aims to eradicate the root causes of the insurgency, poverty, disease, lack of education and opportunities, and social injustice in far-flung communities across the country identified to have been influenced by the communist ideology.
To achieve this, the BDP provides a grant of funds to identified NPA-cleared barangays to implement community-driven socio-economic development projects to former conflict-affected communities.
Uy urged senators to visit former conflict-affected areas in the Davao Region which are now cleared of insurgency and see for themselves how the BDP transformed them into peaceful and developed areas.
Under Republic Act 11518 or the 2021 General Appropriations Act, the national government appropriated PHP16.44 billion for the implementation of various development programs and projects for the 822 insurgency-cleared barangays in the country, including 215 villages in the Davao Region, this year.
The 215 barangays - 82 are from this city, 65 in Davao de Oro, 32 in Davao Oriental, 23 in Davao del Norte, eight in Davao del Sur, and five in Davao Occidental - will be given PHP20 million worth of funds each under the BDP.
“We hope that you will realize its impact not just in the provinces or LGUs but on the national scope. It will have a big impact on national security. Once insurgency will end, then we can focus on the external security threats of the country as long as internal conflict with CPP-NPA-NDF will be resolved,” Uy added.
He added that Davao Region has more than 20 NPA fronts, 15 of which have already been dismantled.
“We are seeing a decline of influence by the dismantling of more than 15 fronts and we only have around six or seven fronts and we targeted to clear it by 2022,” Uy said.
He emphasized that projects under the BDP are identified by people from the barangay themselves and not by the provincial or local officials.
“I am begging our senators to look at the situation. I’m not speaking only for my LGU but on behalf of all LGUs who still have a BDP support next year which could not push through because of the budget cut,” Uy added.
A total of 1,406 villages nationwide are expected to benefit from the BDP next year.
They are set to receive PHP20 million each to fund their anti-insurgency projects.
Each recipient barangay will spend the PHP20-million fund through farm to market roads amounting to PHP12 million; school buildings - PHP3 million; water and sanitation systems - PHP2 million; reforestation and national greening program – PHP1.5; and health stations - PHP1.5 million.
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.
The NDF has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)