Esperon slams critics of anti-insurgency panel
By Christian Crow Maghanoy / The Manila Times
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. slammed critics who suggested the anti-insurgency fund be used to address the pandemic, saying the country has problems other than Covid-19.
The vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) said the government has to face the problems posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
At the weekly virtual press briefing of the task force, Esperon said that "fighting Covid is not the only concern of the government."
"We have to address the triad of the CPP-NPA-NDF that for 53 years had sought to overthrow our democratic form of government. We are working on this, to bring peace and development to the countryside. Insurgency is a 'black eye' of the country. BDP is our program for the victims," he said, referring to the Barangay Development Program of the task force.
The official said the government and the private sector are united in addressing the pandemic.
"Pursuing BDP does not mean we are forgetting the ravages and victims of Covid. The executive and legislative branches of government have crafted Bayanihan 1 and 2, budgeted for P601 billion. Bayanihan 3 is now being discussed," Esperon said.
He deplored the vague statements of critics who did not say whether they were referring to the BDP budget or the NTF-Elcac funds.
The task force was given a P19 billion budget for 2021 while the BDP has P16.44 billion for the development of 822 villages that have been cleared of insurgents. Each barangay (village) gets P20 million for development projects such as construction of roads, bridges, schools, health centers or livelihood programs, the offi cial said.
"The BDP provides capacity building for communities that used to be under the influence of the communist terrorist group. These areas are usually isolated and disadvantaged. They are underserved. They lack concrete roads, classrooms and electricity," Esperon pointed out.
He debunked claims that next year's budget of the task force will be used for election purposes and that the BDP allocation for this year was poured in Davao.
"BDP funds intended for 2021 were released as early as March and April with projects determined by the barangay," he said.
The bulk of BDP funds for 2021 went to Mindanao, including Davao Region which Esperon said had been dealing with rampant infestation of communist terror groups.
The BDP budget next year will go to 1,406 villages mostly located in Samar and the Bicol region, he said.
"Covid-19 is the clear and present danger but we must not let our guard down on this CTG (communist terrorist group) triad. They are a big malaise and scourge to the country. They must now be stopped," Esperon said.