House appropriations committee chair Elizaldy Co (Photo courtesy of House Press and Public Affairs Bureau)

MANILA – House appropriations committee chair and Ako Party-list Representative Zaldy Co on Wednesday committed to help restore the 2023 budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which was earlier slashed by the Senate and House of Representatives.
In a statement, Co assured that the House bicameral panel would work objectively with its Senate counterpart to restore the agency’s reduced budget as instructed by House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Deputy Senior Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos.
“Congress recognizes the important role the NTF-ELCAC plays to help end the country’s decades-long insurgency. Thus, we will convince our Senate counterparts in the bicameral conference committee to restore the agency’s proposed budget. After all, this is one of the key priorities of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. which was clearly outlined in the National Expenditure Program the administration sent to Congress,” he said.
As this developed, Co urged the NTF-ELCAC leadership to hasten implementation of its projects and to explore the possibility of collaborating with agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways which are better equipped to handle project procurement and implementation.
The lawmaker expressed concern that for 2021, the NTF-ELCAC has only completed less than half or 48 percent of its projects under its Support for Barangay Development Program (SBDP), the other half is still ongoing while the remaining 2 percent is still in the procurement stage.
“The situation is even worse in 2022. Based on reports received by my office, only 2 percent of NTF-ELCAC’s 2022 projects have been completed or ongoing. A whopping 98 percent of the projects are still under the pre-procurement or procurement stage, and it’s already December,” he said.
Co said the NTF-ELCAC should exert more effort to fully utilize the budgets allocated by Congress or these will just go back to the national treasury instead of being used for the Filipinos who need more and better social services.
He added the funds are “very essential” since they will be distributed to various agencies for administrative and operational expenses in implementing the task force's Barangay Development Program, which is composed of various support projects for barangays deemed cleared of communist rebels. (With a report from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)