Plan to defund NTF-ELCAC
PALO, Leyte – Both Governors Leopoldo Dominico Petilla of Leyte and Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar have expressed their opposition to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) saying this would affect the development of the targeted far-flung villages.
The NTF-ELCAC current budget is at P19 billion of which P16 billion is intended for the barangay development program (BDP).
However, some senators have expressed their plan to defund the NTF-ELCAC after its spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade called them stupid in the midst of controversy on the community pantry organized by Anna Patricia Non whom the Army general red tagged.
Both Petilla, who chairs the Regional Development Council, and Evardone, who sits at the Regional Peace and Order Council, said that this move could hamper the development effort on the targeted barangays, especially in the remote areas.
“We will not allow that. We will strongly oppose it.In the first place it is not the ELCAC that is utilizing or disbursing or using the funds. The funds is used directly by the barangay,”he said.
“I think the perception of some of our friends in the Senate are misplaced. This ELCAC funds are intended for barangay which had been cleared from insurgency, from conflict situation so that the people will not go back at the other side of the law,” Evardone added.
The Easter Samar governor revealed that in the current budget of NTF-ELCAC, although some villages in his province has been declared cleared from influence of the communist group has not yet received funding from the project.
He said that the current budget of ELCAC is allocated for villages that had been cleared from influence of the communist group from 2018 downward.
“If the village will not receive project from ELCAC the government reputation will be tarnished; its credibility is affected. People in the village will say, you promised to help us but where is it? So the people will not believe the government. If that happens they go to the other side,” the Eastern Samar governor added.
For his part, Gov.Petilla also expressed his opposition to the possible defunding ELCAC saying this would greatly affect villages especially in hinterlands that needs accessibility, social services and help for development.
“ELCAC is one of the few funds from the national government that can be used to fund projects for far-flung communities especially the conflict-affected areas. If ELCAC is defund, you are punishing the communities in hinterlands and not the person who committed a mistake,”he said.
In Leyte province, although the provincial government had been providing funds for barangay development which includes infrastructure and livelihood projects in conflict-affected areas since 2013 under the Leyte Economic- More Income in the Countryside Program, support from the national government is still needed mostly in big funded projects like road network construction.
“Right now, all villages in Leyte are already declared as conflict-affected free areas, but if they push for that plan to defund ELCAC, other provinces such as Samar will be greatly affected. And if conflict happens in Samar, Leyte is also affected, “Petilla said.
During his visit in Palo, Leyte last April 30, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go also expressed his strong opposition on this move.
“I’m opposing to it because it will hamper the government’s anti-insurgency campaign, “Go said in an interview after the turn-over of cash assistance worth P3,000 each to 526 typhoon Auring flooding affected families in Palo town.
He also lead the turn-over of the Malasakit Center at the Leyte Provincial Hospital and at the Schistosomiasis Hospital also both in Palo town.
“We’re in the middle of its implementation. It’s insensitive for us to defund it now. The intention of the ELCAC is to alleviate and develop the conflict-affected villages and not to engage in armed battle,” the senator added.