Sat. Jan 29th, 2022

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) will make do with the P17.1 billion budget allocation it received for its Barangay Development Program (BDP) next year, an official said on Monday.

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National Security Adviser and NTF ELCAC vice chair Hermogenes Esperon Jr. attributed the reduction to the opposition of some lawmakers regarding the BDP’s 2022 budget which was projected to benefit 1,406 communist terrorists-cleared communities by next year.

The amount is much lower than the P28.1 billion budget earlier proposed by Malacañang to Congress for the task force.

“What will happen now is that, we will be giving out P12 million instead of P20 million. We look at how much PHP12 million can do. Usually, when you are building a farm-to-market road, it is usually a kilometer long, and is paved with eight inches of concrete, and is usually five meters wide, it costs P12 million, it could cost higher in mountainous areas. We will look at whether we give this to barangays or just cut it in half),” he said during an ambush interview at the Quezon City Hall of Justice.

Since the people in the beneficiary communities already knew that they will be getting PHP20 million for BDP projects, Esperon said they have no choice but to explain why some lawmakers are not amenable to giving them the proposed budget.

“Whatever their reasons, it is up to the lawmakers to explain to the affected communities, we don’t know their explanation, they told us that they will be using the money for Covid-19 response but do know that in Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2, the government has already spent P601 billion for Covid-19 response,” he added.

Initially, the BDP budget of P20 million will allow beneficiary communities to acquire or construct farm-to-market roads, school buildings, water and sanitation systems, livelihood programs, and health stations.

Also, Esperon said the Covid-19 response has got another P400 billion from the proposed 2022 national budget and loans made by the government, placing the amount spent for containing and mitigating the effects of the deadly pandemic to P1 trillion.

While not disputing the need to spend for Covid-19 mitigation efforts, Esperon, however, wondered whether it is right for lawmakers to cut funds for the BDP, which he described as a cure for the ills caused by 53 years of communist insurgency in the country.

“Insurgency is like the terrorism that took place in Marawi because the NPA really kill, extort, burn, just like those terrorists. We’ll see how countrymen feel about their (BDP) funds being cut from P20 million to P12 billion. We are meeting on how to implement that,” he added.

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