MANILA, Philippines — Several governors and mayors expressed dismay over the Senate’s decision to slash the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that is supposed to be allotted to the government’s anti-insurgency program.
The Senate Committee on Finance cut the budget of the NTF-ELCAC from Php28-billion to only Php4-billion.
Bohol Governor Arthur Yap said he finds questionable the Senate panel’s statement that the NTF-ELCAC’s fund only duplicates that of programs being funded by local government units.
Yap insisted that the NTF-ELCAC programs in the remote areas, particularly the Barangay Development Program, are proven effective.
“Hindi po maintindihan ‘yong statement na duplication. Mayroon bang government agency na into infrastructure at development na bumababa sa barangay na together with mayors, provincial governor with Philippine Army and PNP together with local officials consulting with the people?” Yap said.
Yap added that the farm-to-market road projects of the NTF ELCAC made it possible for the government to reach those in the remote areas, halting the recruitment activities of the New Peoples Army (NPA).
Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, meanwhile, said that if the task force’s budget on the development of barangays is cut, its anti-insurgency projects will be delayed.
This, he fears, will pave the way for the return of the NPA in their area.
“Ako naman po ay nakikiusap na huwag naman ninyong ipagdamot ang kapayapaan para sa bansang Pilipinas. Huwag naman nating ipagdamot ang mga pangangailangan na matagal nang minimithi ng ating mga kababayan na maangkin nila,” Dayanghirang said.
Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone, in the meantime, stated that lawmakers must not only focus their attention on COVID-19 response but also on insurgency which has long been the country’s major problem.
“Pero kung ‘yong pondo ay tatapyasin talaga at ilipat sa COVID para nga hindi sila maging masama sa tao […] Itong pandemic ng insurgency ay matagal na kasya COVID, sa totoo lang. More than 50 years we have been battling this major problem,” Evardone said. — /mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Dante Amento)