MANILA – With the severe cut made by the bicameral conference committee (Bicam) to the 2022 budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the Department of the Interior Local Government (DILG) fears that many cleared barangays may become susceptible anew to the influence of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
In a virtual NTF-ELCAC presser on Monday, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said with the reduced NTF-ELCAC budget which includes the Barangay Development Program (BDP), the Task Force comprising the various government agencies must convene immediately to discuss the realignment of the budget for each barangay.
“There is an entire possibility that there will be barangays who will not receive some projects or other barangays will have a reduction of projects. NTF-ELCAC should meet or NSA (National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., task force Vice Chairman) should call for a meeting para mapaghandaan ang (to prepare for the) reduction,” Malaya said.
He added that these projects for the intended 1,406 barangays for 2022 have already gone through a long process and were chosen by the barangay residents themselves.
“So ang mangyayari po nito ay imbes na complete package ang makukuha nila. Kung humihingi sila ng kalsada, school building at water sanitation systems, baka ang maipagawa na lang po natin ay kalsada (So what will happen is that instead of the complete package, if they will ask for roads, school building and water sanitation systems, on road will be constructed). But, in any case, there will be a dramatic reduction in the projects that will be implemented by government,” the Task Force Spokesperson on Local Government Affairs and BDP added.
“BDP is not a pork barrel project,” Malaya said further explaining that in this year alone, BDP has a total of 2,318 ‘on-going projects’ for conflict-affected barangays to enable them to resist the lies and intimidations of the CPP-NPA-NDF and gain their support after military and police efforts drove them away from these communities.
“Ako mismo ang bumisita dito at napuntahan ko ang mga proyektong ito (I myself visited these projects). I saw for myself the benefit of these programs para sa ating mga kababayan (for the people). So these projects are very, very important to the barangays that are BDP beneficiaries. But it (P17.1 billion) is a far cry from the P28.1 billion for the 1,406 barangays (programmed to be beneficiaries) for 2022. The implementation is that we reduce the number of barangays or reduce the budget per barangay. Ipinangako na ng pamahalaan ito kailangang tuparin (The government promised this and must be fulfilled),” Malaya said.
On the other hand, Davao de Oro Governor Tyron Uy, whose barangays are supposed to benefit from the program, said that while he was happy that the Bicam heeded the calls of local officials like him, the budget slash will still severely hinder the government’s program to attain peace in far-flung barangays infested by the CPP-NPA-NDF.
“It was a bitter sweet victory. From the PHP4 billion earlier allocation, naging (it became) more or less PHP18 billion. But not fully restored budget. And through our voices, our pleas were heard by our legislators,” Uy said.
The ‘dramatic reduction’ of the BDP also suffered another blow when Typhoon Odette devastated parts of Visayas and Mindanao regions including Governor Uy’s jurisdiction where barangay projects were affected by the typhoon.
“This may be an opportunity for the enemies of the state to push their agenda,” Uy said, adding that they had a similar experience in 2013 when typhoon Pablo became an opportunity for the CPP-NPA-NDF to influence the typhoon-hit barangays in his turf.
“During that time nag-start ang Salugpungan. The insurgents masking themselves na tutulong sa mga pag-aaral ng mga kabataan na magbigay ng mga paaralan (that they will help in giving education to the youth by giving school) end up in recruiting our youth as child warriors. I am not speaking only in my province!” Uy narrated.
The local official hoped that this legacy project of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will continue to sustain efforts to bring peace in villages formerly controlled by local communist insurgents.
Uy said that the budget cut “is another battle to hurdle” as he called on other LGUs to take other initiatives like using their ‘quick-response fund’ to help those beleaguered by typhoon Odette.
As for the BDP, Uy added that they have to contend using the small amount in building one to two kilometers of “opening” road instead of a complete farm-to-market road. However, based on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and DILG Guidelines on BDP this kind of projects are not allowed.
“We just have to prioritize (projects) na makakapagbigay ng malaking (that will give big) impact,” Uy said. (PR)