Pursuing BDP doesn’t equate to abandoning Covid-19 response

By Priam Nepomuceno / Philippine News Agency

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict vice-chairperson (PNA File photo)

MANILA – Pursuing the Barangay Development Project (BDP) does not mean that the government is abandoning the needs of people severely affected by the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.


"I really think we should not politicize the BDP. Let us not equate BDP as equivalent to abandoning the victims of Covid-19," National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said during Monday's episode of "Tagged: Debunking Lies by Telling the Truth” press briefing.


Reacting to critics calling for the diversion of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) funds allotted for BDP, to the Covid-19 pandemic response, he said the government is mindful of the problems brought by Covid-19 and this is the reason why it ha enacted, with the help of the legislature, Bayanihan 1, 2 and now discussing Bayanihan 3 to come up with the means to address the challenges.


"We must unite in fighting Covid. Kaya nga tayo sumasailalim at mahirap man, ay nag-ECQ tayo para labanan ang Covid-19 (Difficult as it may be, we have decided to go under enhanced community quarantine [entire Metro Manila from August 6 to 20] to fight Covid-19)," said Esperon, who is also NTF-ELCAC vice-chair.


‘Big national malice’


While the Covid-19 pandemic is the "clear and present danger" for now, he said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) is "a big national malice" and must be resolved with the whole-nation-approach.


The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.


"We are now in the setup that is a whole-of-nation-approach to solve this 53-year-malaise. I must say we should support the BDP. This is a program for victims, people in conflicted areas. we have to remember that as a nation, the nation itself is a victim of this unwanted armed rebellion," Esperon said.


He urged opposing politicians to stop issuing self-serving political statements which he said are aimed at getting votes in the coming 2022 elections.


"I do not want to go into that but it looks like that the statements are so irrational and not backed up by realities on the ground," he added.


The BDP is the NTF-ELCAC’s hallmark program with the end goal of bringing government projects development projects in conflict-afflicted and geographically isolated villages that have been considered "cleared" from the influence of communist rebels.


The BDP has identified 822 barangays nationwide that were former guerilla fronts of the CPP-NPA-NDF for projects such as farm-to-market roads, classrooms, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and livelihood projects.


Of the PHP19 billion total budget of the NTF-ELCAC, PHP16 billion is allotted for the development of 822 barangays cleared of insurgency. Each recipient barangay would receive PHP20 million.


The next years’ budget allocation for the BDP is intended for 1,406 barangays mostly located in Samar and the Bicol Region, compared to the 822 barangays in 2021.


"The funds for the BBP are directly released to the provincial and the city governments who will undertake, administer or contract out the BDP projects. That's the bulk of it," Esperon said. (PNA)

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