National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. expressed elation over what he calls an “avalanche of support” from a huge number of national and local government officials as well as influential groups and individuals for the Barangay Development Program (BDP) that aims to free 822 neglected barangays from the clutches of communist-terrorists.
`“In no other time in recent history that we saw this kind of phenomenal outpouring of support for such a novel government program whose intention is to bring development to far-flung and poor barangays that are guerilla bases of the communist terrorists. It is like an avalanche or a bandwagon, where supporters of the program pour in daily by expressing their all-out and uncompromising support for the BDP, a project that showcases good governance, which is the true spirit of NTF-ELCAC,” Esperon said.
`Esperon, who sits as Vice Chairman of the NTF-ELCAC, said there are 518 barangays, 366 cities and municipalities and 20 provinces that have passed their respective resolutions in support of the “game-changing initiative.”
“These LGUs strongly oppose the defunding of the (BDP) under the NTF-ELCAC. The BDP is a game-changing initiative for the development of these barangays under threat from the CPP-NPA,” Esperon explained.
These are apart from various private groups and individuals like Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, who warned that moving to defund NTF-ELCAC is actually doing communist-terrorists a favor. In a video message, Quiboloy, whose group claims to have around six million members, even hailed the anti-insurgency task force for its commitment to end the 53-year scourge of communist terrorism.
Esperon stressed that calls to defund NTF-ELCAC are misplaced and untimely, explaining that: “Many of these communities have long waited for these sustainable development initiatives since 2016. Now that we have successfully liberated them from the clutches of the CPP-NPA-NDF, it is our moral obligation to see to it that they are not at risk for recapture.”
Contrary to critics’ claims, the P16.44 billion budget for these 822 barangays are coursed to the Provincial or City Governments, not to the NTF-ELCAC.
Each barangay will receive P20 million worth of projects, broken down as follows: P12 million for concrete farm-to-market roads; P3 million for school buildings; P2 million for water and sanitation; P1.5 million for health stations; and P1.5 million for livelihood assistance.
After submission by 518 barangays indicating the projects they prefer, P9.6B worth of funds have been released by DBM. DBM earlier directed the submission of barangay resolutions and the reports started coming in by March 15, 2021. Thus, release of funds started in April.
Some of the top government officials who reject calls to defund NTF-ELCAC include Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, who argued that removing the task force’s budget “would be giving back 37 provinces to the terrorists for their playground.”
Likewise, Senate National Defense Committee chair Sen. Panfilo Lacson assured that the budget for the BDP cannot be abused by NTF-ELCAC, stressing that the program will not be at the disposal of the security sector since it is part of the Special Purpose Fund under the Assistance to Local Government Units (ALGU).
“Being the sponsor of the NTF-ELCAC’s 2021 budget, it is my obligation and responsibility to defend the Department of Budget and Management’s release of funds which will be implemented not by the NTF-ELCAC but by the local government units concerned,” Lacson told media.
Echoing Esperon’s position, the lawmaker explained that the programs, activities and projects (PAPs) worth P1 million or less will be implemented by the barangay; those worth more than P1 million but not more than P10 million by the city or municipality; and those worth more than P10 million by the province.
For her part, Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez of Leyte noted that the BDP is “a major headway towards achieving peace, especially in the countryside.”
Meanwhile, provincial governors who threw their unequivocal support for NTF-ELCAC and the BDP include Alexander Pimentel of Surigao Del Sur, Tyrone Uy of Davao De Oro, Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, Dale Corvera of Agusan Del Norte, Francisco Ortega of La Union and Nancy Catamco of Cotabato, among many others.
Previously, the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP)-Oriental Mindoro Chapter said they recognize the significance and the breakthrough developments achieved by the NTF ELCAC most especially in its fight to end insurgency in the countryside through the BDP.
“LMP–Oriental Mindoro is standing by its belief that the ELCAC Program is vital in our desire to provide a more dignified and better-situated life for those living in conflicted and vulnerable communities in our country today,” a resolution signed by its acting president Elegio Malaluan read.
According to Esperon, these mounting calls to reject the defunding the Barangay Development Program are expected to heighten in the coming days, as groundbreaking for the various BDP projects nears.
“These resounding expressions of support for the NTF-ELCAC and its initiatives mean we are on the right track and we will not be distracted by some sectors’ misinformed misgivings or even black propaganda being waged against us. These projects will be implemented with utmost transparency and accountability. No single centavo will go to waste and we shall see to it that these projects will serve their purpose and bring development to our kababayans who have been neglected, ignored and left at the mercy of selfish and mindless communist terrorists who wish that the people in isolated and disadvantaged areas remain in abject poverty. That we will no longer allow,” the NTF-ELCAC official further stressed.