Security Adviser Sec.Carlos OKs the plan
TACLOBAN CITY– The governors of Eastern Visayas have agreed to propose an ‘equalization fund’ as a way to help address the insurgency problem of the region.
This proposal was made during a meeting with regional civilian and security officials of the region with National Security Adviser, Sec. Clarita Carlos here in the city Friday (Nov.11).
Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone, who made the proposal, said that by having an equalization fund, ‘poorer’ provinces like much of Eastern Visayas would have more funds to bankroll their projects which aim, among others, to end the insurgency problem.
He said that the additional fund that could come from the proposed equalization fund could be used to build more roads in areas affected by the insurgency problem.
“The body has agreed to have the need of equalization funds to poor provinces, municipalities, and barangays…to help address the needs like roads and health centers,” he said.
“This will be a big push in our efforts to finally end the communist problem in our area,” Evardone added.
He, however, was quick to say that there must be what he called a ‘sunshine provision’ wherein the funding could be stopped or changed once the problem is addressed completely.
Evardone said that based on the current setup, rich local government units have more share of national tax while the poor ones get the smaller share.
The governor added that the funds could also be used to address climate change-related programs or activities.
For her part, Samar Gov. Sharee Ann Tan said that while the insurgency problem in her province is ‘becoming weak,’ there is still so much to be done to fully quell the problem.
“Our direction is now how to deal with the rebel returnees or surrenderees like providing them livelihood assistance,” she said.
Leyte Gov. Jericho Petilla said that while Leyte has been cleared of the insurgency problem, he agrees to the proposal saying there is still a need to ensure that the villages that were recovered from the control of the New People’s Army need to be maintained as insurgency-free.
“That is actually difficult to do,” he said.
Sec. Carlos said that she agree with the proposal of the governors though she said that this can be addressed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. through realignment of funds or even an act of Congress.
Eastern Visayas, particularly the three provinces of Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, and Samar continue to deal with insurgency problem.
During the gathering, Major Gen. Camilo Ligayo, the commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Division, said that they are targeting that before the end of the year, they could crush the insurgency problem of the region by clearing remaining villages considered under their control.
He said that out of the five existing guerilla fronts in the country, four are still in Northern Samar.
“We are in a better position compared to two years ago. We have reduced the number of guerilla fronts and cleared several influenced barangays. We are hoping that before the end of this year, we can clear (all the remaining barangays under the influence of the rebels),” he said.
(JOEY A. GABIETA)