More Samar mayors nix calls to defund NTF-ELCAC
By Sarwell Meniano / Philippine News Agency
TACLOBAN CITY – More mayors from poverty-stricken Samar province have renewed their support to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for the retention of funds meant for the Barangay Development Program (BDP).
In Calbiga, Samar, where the communist terrorist group New People’s Army (NPA) gained popularity in the 1970s, Mayor Melcor Nacario said the BDP is the key to wipe out insurgents in remote villages of their town.
“Our development efforts have been hampered by terrorist activities of NPA. Now is the time to end this armed conflict through the implementation of BDP,” Nacario said in a statement posted on social media by the Philippine Army on Wednesday.
It was in Calbiga town where the NPA launched its first tactical operation in the country in 1974, when its members ambushed an Army scout patrol and seized several weapons.
Since then, some of the villages in Calbiga have been known as sites of clashes between government troops and armed rebels.
One of the bloodiest gunbattles was on April 23, 2019, where six soldiers died and six others were hurt.
“We convey our earnest support to the NTF-ELCAC’s BDP and urge for the retention of its funds,” Nacario said.
The official made the statement after some lawmakers proposed for the diversion of the PHP19-billion budget of the NTF-ELCAC, including the PHP16.5 billion allotted for the development of 822 villages cleared of insurgency.
Also backing the retention of NTF-ELCAC funds is San Sebastian town Mayor Eleuterio Mabao.
In a statement, the local chief executive asked lawmakers to disregard the persuasion of NPA front organizations to realign BDP funds.
“Our plea to Congress is to support efforts to end the decades of extortion, killing, and other terrorist activities of the NPA that has been disrupting our economic development,” Mabao said.
Sta. Rita, Samar Mayor Joven Tiu asked lawmakers pushing for defunding of NTF-ELCAC to think twice since the BDP provides a clear vision on how to attain lasting peace in areas previously burdened by armed struggle.
“The program provided our identified villages with an opportunity for a more concrete realization of its vision for the development of their communities,” Tiu stated.
Other mayors in Samar province, who formally expressed their support to BDP and likewise posted on the Army's social media page, are Philip Marvin Astorga of Daram town, Marilou Latorre of Villareal, Rosabel Costelo of Talalora, Elena Dieza of Hinabangan, Teodoro Mabag of Pinabacdao, and Aran Boller of Matuguinao.
BDP is a hallmark program of NTF-ELCAC with the end goal of bringing development to former conflict-prone communities.
Each of the 822 covered villages will get an outlay of PHP20 million with PHP12 million intended for the one-kilometer farm-to-market road, PHP3 million for classrooms, PHP2 million for water and sanitation systems, PHP1.5 million for health station, and PHP1.5 million for livelihood projects.
On December 4, 2018, the President issued Executive Order No. 70 creating the NTF-ELCAC and institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach towards obtaining sustainable peace in the hopes of putting an end to more than 50 years of local communist insurgency.
The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)