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‘Restore the NTF-ELCAC budget for barangays,’ guvs tell the Senate.

As local leaders across the country continue to express their outrage and dismay over senators’ decision to cut the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Barangay Development Program (BDP), three more governors and a mayor have expressed their concerns about the looming threat of communist terrorist groups (CTGs) if these 2022 funds are denied.

Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone slammed senators pushing for the BDP budget cut during the weekly virtual NTF-ELCAC press briefing on Monday, accusing them of political posturing as the next election approaches.

“To avoid being portrayed as bad boys, they will transfer to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Evardone said, referring to some senators’ claims that it is better to transfer the BDP fund to fight the dreaded virus pandemic while the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) continues to wreak havoc.

“Itong pandemic ng insurgency ay mas matagal na (This insurgency pandemic has been with us for a very long time),” Evardone added.

During a consultative meeting, he stated that the majority of the residents of their ten municipalities expressed hope that progress would be made for them. When they learned of some senators’ move, one of the mayors proposed issuing a resolution declaring that senators who oppose the BDP receive “zero votes” in their province.

“Sana nga sa bicam [Bicameral Conference Committee] maihabol at mairestore,” he said.

Bohol Governor Arthur Yap, on the other hand, expressed grave concern about the move to cut the budget, despite the fact that his province has yet to accept and receive the BDP fund for next year.

“Sayang lang ang big investment ng national government para sa Bohol in tourism (It’s a shame if the national government’s big investment for Bohol in tourism will go to waste),” Yap said, adding that the BDP will help fix the road network of six critical barangays in his province.

Anger and frustration

Yap stated that while speaking with various Bohol local leaders, everyone expressed their frustration and anger about the situation.

“Says nila, Senators, kung ganyan pala ang ginagawa nila” (As they said, if the senators will do that). They have the power to help us right now, but they choose not to. I believe the people should be aware that governors, mayors, and our leaders must march to the Senate and make our concerns heard. So, if the other governors are going to the Senate, I’m ready to go. “Please include me,” he said.

Sustainability must not be jeopardized.

According to Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, the 81 to 82 percent nearing completion of BDP projects in his province will be for naught if sustainability is hampered by budget cuts, as this one-of-a-kind program was only implemented during this administration.

“This is the first time in history that the national government has given attention to our countrymen in remote areas, particularly in Malalayong,” Dayanghirang said.

He claimed that if the BDP is defeated, the national government will suffer the most.

The BDP, he said, was the best long-term solution to the insurgency problem.

“It’s our hope that this will be a long-term solution to address the needs of our countrymen, especially those in conflict-affected barangays,” he said.

“Ako po ay nakikiusap sa ating mga Senador na huwag ninyong ipagdamot ang mga pangangailangan na matagal ng ating mga kababayan nila (I am appealing to our senators not to spoil peace for the Philippines, let us not spoil the needs that our countrymen have long wanted them to meet),” he added.

‘Listen to people’s cries.’

Meanwhile, Abra de Ilog Municipal Mayor Eric Constantino of Occidental Mindoro reported that his municipality is now facing an insurgency threat because the NPA headquarters, which was previously located in Quezon and Laguna provinces, has been relocated to their area.

Constantino urged senators to “take a second look” and “consider how effective” the NTF-BDP ELCAC’s is in meeting the basic needs of remote communities.

He went on to say that the NPA rebels are making “recovery efforts” to retake their province, which is mostly made up of Indigenous People (IP) communities.

“Listen to the people’s cries and clamor” (especially IPs). “You will deny them the service for which you have been sworn,” Constantino warned senators who wanted to cut the BDP budget, adding that IPs make up “the bulk of CPP-NPA-NDF recruitment.”

He stated that IP communities in his municipality have already felt the presence of the national government through the BDP, which includes the installation of streetlights with solar-powered stations, ongoing potable water projects, classrooms, and road upgrades in five of his “isolated” barangays.

“Other barangays are hopeful that theirs will follow soon,” Constantino said, insisting that some senators’ decision to cut the BDP budget “will devastate the fate of progress” in his hometown.

BDP is a game-changer.

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson on Local Government Affairs and BDP, stated that while the department is still hoping that the majority of senators will support the BDP, the department is happy to see and hear that the land’s local officials are voicing their sentiment on the issue, as they, too, continue to appeal for the passage of the BDP budget in its “entirety.”

“The BDP is a game changer in our fight against domestic terrorism and communism,” he said. “There is a strong government momentum in fighting terrorism, and cutting that PHP28.1 billion sends the wrong signal to our partner local government units under the National Task Force ELCAC, who have now taken a strong stand alongside the DILG and the rest of the NTF-ELCAC against Communist Terrorist Groups.”

He also stated that this is the first time the government has provided such a large amount of funding to disadvantaged and isolated areas across the country.

On the issue of slow implementation, Malaya stated that many simple projects, such as the distribution of seed capital, rice harvesters, and livelihood projects, had already been completed, whereas infrastructures such as farm-to-market roads and electrification projects would take longer due to the government’s compliance with Republic Act (RA) 9184, or the Procurement Act.

“It’s unfair to say that accomplishment is slow because the process is a little too long,” and the timeline for completing these projects is too long. These are large-scale projects. And pangalawa tayo dumaan sa pandemya. Neither the NTF-ELCAC nor the (And secondly, we have experienced a pandemic. “Neither the NTF-ELCAC nor the local governments have shied away from implementing these projects as soon as possible,” Malaya said.

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