BDP for best interest of underserved barangays: Esperon
Updated: May 17, 2021
By Azer Parrocha / Philippine News Agency
MANILA – The government’s anti-insurgency body said the Barangay Development Program (BDP) is for the best interest of underserved barangays and denies communist groups the opportunity to take back what was formerly their playground.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr., in a statement Sunday, appealed to lawmakers to support the BDP, noting that many communities have long waited for these sustainable development initiatives since the start of the Duterte administration in 2016.
“Now that we have successfully liberated them from the clutches of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front), is it not our moral obligation to see to it that they are not at risk for recapture? Is it not our duty as public officials to guarantee that the CPP-NPA-NDF will no longer return to these communities to exploit their vulnerability?,” he said.
Esperon, who is also vice chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), came to the defense of the BDP’s PHP16.5 billion funding after some lawmakers sought to defund the NTF-ELCAC.
Of the PHP19 billion total budget of the NTF-ELCAC, PHP16.5 billion is allotted for the development of over 800 barangays cleared of insurgency.
He said stopping the funds for NTF-ELCAC’s BDP would mean halting government means to end a divisive conflict that has handicapped the country.
“The failure to deliver this program would not just mean frustration among us at NTF-ELCAC and the principles that we stand for. Rather, the failure to deliver the Barangay Development Program to the formerly conflicted communities that need it most is tantamount to abandoning their aspirations for a dignified life,” he said.
The BDP’s core programs and projects for each recipient barangay, which would receive PHP20 million, include a 1-kilometer farm-to-market road worth PHP12 million, classrooms (PHP3 million), water and sanitation systems (PHP2 million), a health station (PHP1.5 million), and livelihood projects (PHP1.5 million).
The PHP16.5-billion BDP budget goes directly to local government units from the Department of Budget and Management.
“We at the NTF-ELCAC have nothing to gain from the BDP apart from the fulfillment of our legal mandate,” Esperon said in a press statement.
To allay concerns over corruption on the utilization of BDP’s funds, Esperon said the NTF-ELCAC receives daily updates on the progress of the BDP funds and its utilization through various agencies concerned.
“I wish to assure stakeholders that the project management teams at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the various mechanisms of transparency and accountability of the regional and provincial task forces of the NTF-ELCAC are working to ensure that the BDP funds are used responsibly and for their intended purpose,” he said.
He added that several measures were drafted to ensure the transparency of the nationwide program.
“At the very least, the guidelines stipulated under the Department of Budget Management (DBM) Local Budget Circular 135 and 135-A are in place to ensure transparency and accountability in the utilization of the BDP funds which will be released to provincial and city governments where the 822 barangays are located,” he said.
Esperon also provided updates on the BDP’s package of programs, which he said were released following the stringent evaluation of the government agencies concerned.
DBM okays 483 BDP projects
Citing data April 23, 2021, he said a total of 525 out of 822 barangays have already endorsed their respective programs and projects to the DBM while the remaining 237 are in the process of endorsing their plans.
“After thorough verification of the proposals at the national level, the BDP package of 483 barangays have already been approved with projects worth PHP9.66 billion ready for release to the provincial and city governments for the benefit of barangays under their jurisdiction,” he said.
Esperon said these will not be released in cash but in the form of projects to the local governments of the identified barangay recipients.
His office, he said, expects the remaining barangays to complete their requirements for the release of the BDP package to their respective provincial governments at the soonest possible time.
He also urged stakeholders to report incidents of misuse, abuse of authority, and malversation, through the government’s appropriate grievance channels such as the Office of the Ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan, and the 8888 Citizens’ Complaint Center.
“It is fairly easy to make speculations thus far on misuse of the BDP funds, but to substantiate allegations is a matter that requires comprehensive investigations altogether,” he added.
Amid red-tagging allegations, Esperon assured that the NTF-ELCAC has “the best interest of the country” in mind.
The NTF-ELCAC was created by virtue of Executive Order 70 issued on Dec. 4, 2018 “to provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the Whole-of-Nation Approach to aid in the realization of the collective aspirations for inclusive and sustainable peace.”
The BDP is the NTF-ELCAC’s hallmark program that aims to bring development to former conflict-prone communities. (PNA)