Amid the tirades of the Makabayan bloc in Congress on the P1.58-billion counter-insurgency funds, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Sunday defended anew the inclusion of Davao City in the Barangay Development Program (BDP), of which several of its barangays would need development after being placed under the influence of the New People’s Army for over decades.
Esperon, the vice chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said the presence of the NPA has long beenan unwanted force that continues to impede the development of Mindanao, including the Davao region and Davao City.
“The fact remains that there are numerous isolated and remote barangays within Davao City. Hence, with the large land are of Davao City, there still a need for development and infrastructure for the growth of the city,” he said.
The government has identified 822 villages cleared of NPA threats to be included in the BDP to be carried out by the NTF-ELCAC. The program shall provide each barangay a P20-million socio-economic development package.
For Davao City, Esperon pointed out that the city is in need to school buildings to replace the Salugpungan schools which were operated as NPA training centers. There are 55 Salugpungan schools in the entire Davao Region.
Esperon denied supposed “general’s pork,” stressing that the BDP is envisioned with the end goal of bringing development to conflict-prone communities in order to stop the NPA recruitment.
“It is our hope that through the BDP, vulnerable communities will no longer find themselves helpless against the conditions that forced them to have faith in the CPP-NPA and to join the communist armed insurgency,” he said.
“By transforming former areas of conflict, we are now one step closer to our collective aspiration as Filipinos for sustainable grassroots development and lasting peace,” he added.
Citing records, he said of the five CPP-NPA Regional Party Committee in Mindanao, there are four in Eastern Mindanao -- the Northeast Mindanao Regional Committee, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, South Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) and Far South Mindanao Regional Committee.
Members of the Makabayan bloc questioned the reported P1.58 billion counter-insurgency funds under the proposed 2021 budget of the NTF-ELCAC for several barangays in Davao City.
Esperon opposed the claim of Makabayan bloc that there were no armed conflicts in Davao City, saying within the city is an existing armed guerilla unit called Pulang Bagani Command, and that the SMRC comprises five sub-units threatening the largest city in the country.
From 2016 to the present, he said, the security forces were able to dismantle four guerilla fronts in Davao City, two in Davao de Oro, three in Davao del Norte, two in Davao Occidental, two in Davao Oriental and one in Davao del Sur.
“For progress to begin, communities must be first freed from the threat and influence of the NPA. The dismantling of guerilla fronts necessitates a comprehensive process of improving coordination between security operations and developmental intervention projects,” Esperon said.