Manila, Nov. 25 -- Mayor Melecio Yap Jr. of Escalante City, Negros Occidental on Thursday defended the proposed budget for the Barangay Development Program (BDP) of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) after some senators pushed for reduced funding next year.
"I feel very, very sad regarding that. The funds go to the projects the people themselves have asked for. The intention of the NTF-ELCAC is to bring these funds [for projects] to the people on the ground so they will not join the New People's Army (NPA)," Yap said in a video message uploaded by the Philippine Army's 3rd Infantry Division on Facebook.
The northern Negros city has the most insurgency-cleared villages in Negros Occidental, including Bacolod City, with 14 barangays out of 26, receiving funding of PHP20 million each from the Local Government Support Fund-Support to Barangay Development Program (LGSF-SBDP).
"These projects were not chosen by the barangay captains, not by the mayor, not by the governor. These are results of the consultations conducted by the task force to make the people feel the government is with them. This is really a big help for them," Yap said.
He added that lawmakers who are opposing the budget for the anti-insurgency body should know that funds totaling PHP280 million went to Escalante City.
"I challenge all those legislators who want to defund the NTF-ELCAC, the PHP280 million is with us. You can come here, you can scrutinize these projects so you will know which is better, the projects identified by the people themselves or those that are just the initiative of a politician," the mayor said.
In October, seven of the city's insurgency-cleared villages, including Barangays Paitan, Dian-ay, Mabini, Libertad, Pinapugasan, Udtongan, and Washington, received farm tractors all worth PHP20.695 million as part of the projects under the BDP.
The PHP17.5-million concreting of the Alimango-Lawis Road in Barangay Alimango is also ongoing.
In September, residents of Barangays Mabini, Libertad, Pinapugasan, and Paitan, belonging to the marginalized or vulnerable sectors, underwent various skills training courses under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The BDP is a hallmark program of the NTF-ELCAC with the end goal of bringing development to former conflict-prone communities.
In 2021, the NTF-ELCAC has identified 822 barangays nationwide that were former guerilla fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front.