The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Thursday said 59 barangays in the Bicol region will be the first to receive development funds following their liberation from communist influence.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, NTF-ELAC vice chairman, said that funds from the Barangay Development Program will be released to more localities as these are freed of CPP-NPA influence.
He added that by 2022, another 282 barangays in the Bicol Region will be receiving projects under the BDP. Each barangay, certified as NPA-free, will be receiving P20 million worth of infrastructure and livelihood projects. In a statement made available to congressional reporters, Esperon’s NTF-ELCAC announced the release of funds to 15 barangays in Sorsogon; 26 in Masbate, eight in Camarines Norte and many others that are already free from New People’s Army (NPA) influence and threats.
Esperon said the BDP package being implemented in the Bicol Region is the outcome of the “meticulous” collaborative efforts between the local government, the security sector, private sector partners, and the national government in identifying the needs of stakeholders in the area.
“The NTF-ELCAC underscored the inclusion of the Bicol Region in the program because the presence of the Communist Party of the Philippines–NPA in the said areas has stunned the development of the provinces and the entire region,” said Esperon.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Esperon said that Bicol Region posted 7 percent unemployment rate and 20.3 percent underemployment rate as of April 2021.
Poverty incidence in the region is at 27 percent despite a growth rate of 7.4 percent.
“For us in the security sector, we recognize that the radicalization of vulnerable communities and recruitment into the armed insurgency can be traced in part to poverty, hunger lack of access to education and economic opportunities, inadequate healthcare and infrastructure and injustice,” Esperon said.
Last Wednesday, Esperon and some Cabinet members led the groundbreaking ceremony in the Municipality of Casiguran, Sorsogon.
The event was attended by Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for Region V Secretary Gregorio Honasan; Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero and others.
The Municipality of Casiguran, Sorsogon will be implementing the BDP in barangays San Pascual and Sta Cruz with a total funds of P40 million. Projects include barangay roads construction, electrification of some sitios, water supply system, and health station.
Esperon also announced that groundbreaking ceremonies for BDP implementation in all region nationwide are underway.
He stressed that it is President Duterte’s desire to complete the project in soonest possible time with transparency, no corruption and with accountability.
“We stand here, both national and local organs of government, arm-in-arm and united to end the root causes of armed insurgency. The NTF-ELCAC is appreciative of the overwhelming support of local chief executives, lawmakers and the private sector for the BDP,” Esperon added.
In the Bicol Region, Esperon said, the CPP-NPA has long been notorious for extortion activities conducted against large agricultural and mining companies; assassination activities by the Special Partisan Unit (Sparu); human rights violations through the illegal use of landmines, human shields, and child warriors, roadside bombings and ambushes against government personnel and various other terrorist acts committed by the Bicol Regional Party Committee of the CPP-NPA.