MANILA – National Security Adviser Eduardo Año on Tuesday night urged the House of Representatives to continue supporting the "Barangay Development Program" (BDP), noting that it has been effective in helping neutralize the decades-long communist insurgency in the country.
In a statement, Año also urged the Senate and the House to approve the proposed BDP budget for 2024, which would be needed by at least 864 barangays previously influenced or controlled by the communist movement.
“(I’m appealing) to all the members of Congress and Senate to please support us and provide funds for the SBDP (Support to the Barangay Development Project) for 2024,” he said.
The BDP budget for next year is placed at PHP8.6 billion.
Under the proposed budget, each of the recipient barangays would be allotted PHP10 million worth of development projects in line with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s vision to unify the country and for the government to become “bringers of peace” to the Filipino people.
Marcos chairs the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which exists under Executive Order 70 issued in 2018 by former president Rodrigo Duterte.
Año, who is also NTF-ELCAC co-vice chair along with Vice President Sara Duterte, pointed out that the quest to free the country from the scourge of the almost five-decade-old bloody armed struggle by the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army - National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) is already in its final lap this year.
“It’s not only that we’re going to uplift the lives of our people in those isolated barangays once under the influence by the CPP-NPA but we’re now at this point of history that we really have to (eliminate) this insurgency and finally, we will have a peaceful country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Marlo Iringan of NTF-ELCAC’s Basic Services Cluster, clarified that the funds for the SBDP are directly downloaded to the local government units, contrary to the campaign by the three party list-member Makabayan bloc that the funds were in the form of a “pork barrel.”
Iringan said since the inception of NTF-ELCAC, 3,878 barangays have already been provided with SBDP funds that were used and chosen by the residents based on what they felt was most needed in their communities.
"(A total of) 773 km. of barangay farm-to-market roads were made, which gave greater impact to people who can now transport their produce to the market," he said.
NTF-ELCAC executive director, Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr., on the other hand, said SBDP "is a game-changer in our campaign in ending the local communist terrorist."
Torres said NTF-ELCAC's mandate is to "harmonize (the) efforts of each government agency" in assisting and aiding communities vulnerable to the infiltration of communist groups.
"Empowering them (barangay residents in remote areas across the country) on what they need in their areas drastically changes the landscape of their socio-economic life. This translates to tangibles like raising the family income, improving the people’s access to education, health, food security, among others," he said.
In defense of VP
National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, meanwhile, slammed the ACT Teachers party list, one of the members of the Makabayan Bloc, which he said keeps on smearing the Vice President and threatening to impeach her over speculations about her as Secretary of the Department of Education.
Duterte, as co-vice chair of NTF-ELCAC, has been advocating for the elimination of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
"They (ACT) should go back to what they are supposed to be doing," Malaya said, referring to the party-list's role of representing teachers in Congress.
"Every year, CPP-NPA-NDF front bloc would attack the SBDP, characterizing it as a ‘pork barrel’ of the NTF-ELCAC," he said.
Malaya also emphasized that the task force "is simply a coordinating body."
Año said the Marcos administration would work hard to attain genuine peace, unity and development for the country.
"We want to attain lasting peace. Di lang natin dinadala ang mga projects (we not only bring projects [through the BDP]) but also provide new life," he said, referring to former communist rebels who are living a productive and peaceful life with their families.
Año also offered an olive branch to the Makabayan bloc to work together with the government instead of espousing violence and "hitting government efforts for lasting peace."
He chided the three party lists – Gabriella, Kabataan and ACT – in Congress for being “anti-development” and for demonizing the NTF-ELCAC. (PNA)