THE NTF-ELCAC'S INITIATIVE TO DEVELOP BRGYS SHOULD NOT BE HELD IN ABEYANCE IN FAVOR OF POLITICKING
As the Vice Chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), I am saddened by the proliferation and misinformation regarding the NTFELCAC and the Barangay Development Program (BDP). I wish to issue this statement to elicit a deeper appreciation and understanding of the both the NTF-ELCAC and the BDP, their rationale, and corresponding objectives.
Allow me to first bring attention to the purpose of the program. The Barangay Development Program, as the flagship project of the NTF-ELCAC, intends to bring sustainable development programs to conflict-prone and conflict-affected communities. We at the NTF-ELCAC had envisioned that communities will benefit from its five core programs which range from farm to market roads, classrooms, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and livelihood projects. Taken together, these activities bring underserviced communities front and center.
Communities receiving the BDP are classified as those which were formerly strongholds or under the influence of the CPP-NPA-NDF fronts and are now ripe for development interventions by the government. For the implementation of the BDP in 2021, the security forces and civilian agencies have identified 822 barangays cleared of the influence of the CPP-NPA-NDF from 2016-2019. These beneficiary barangays first underwent the Retooled Community Support Program spearheaded by the local government unit supported by various civilian agencies under the Regional Task Force-ELCAC. After which, these communities were endorsed to the NTF-ELCAC for inclusion in the list of barangay-recipients of the BDP at the Department of Budget Management.
I take this opportunity to clarify that in no manner has there been preferential treatment as to the identification of barangay recipients. To be specific, Mindanao has the most number of cleared barangays from 2016-2019. Each barangay-recipient shall be receiving a package of programs, activities, and projects (PAPs) worth a total of, and not exceeding, Php 20M. These PAPs, identified through the collaboration among regional and provincial line agencies, local chief executives, and other local stakeholders, are endorsed for funding under the Barangay Development Program. For FY 2022, a total of 1,406 barangays cleared of the CPP-NPA-NDF threat and influence in will be included in the BDP. Most of these 1,406 barangays are located in the Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and Caraga Regions.
In the interest of accountability and transparency, measures of transparency are in place for the implementation of the Barangay Development Program. Pursuant to its mandate, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) shall monitor and evaluate projects under the BDP. Officials from the head office of the NTF-ELCAC will also continuously inspect and monitor the implementation of the projects. Finally, Regional Task Forces of NTF-ELCAC which are all led by Cabinet members will conduct their own inspections.
As of September 3, 2021, 99.3% of the BDP funds have already been released by the DBM directly to the respective provincial and city governments where barangay recipients are located. The NTF-ELCAC does not, in any circumstance, control nor manipulate the funds appropriated for the BDP. Rather, the NTF-ELCAC is responsible for harmonizing and coordinating the efforts both on the national and local level. The DILG and NTF-ELCAC use different monitoring tools based on the Regional Project Monitoring and Evaluation System (RPMES) of NEDA, the DILG's Subaybayan website, the BDP Transparency Page at the NTF-ELCAC website, third party monitoring by non-government organizations, and several social media accounts of local government units as per DILG Memorandum Circular 2021-040. All these overlapping mechanisms ensure that the highest standards of transparency and accountability are followed.
Further, Local Budget Circulars 135 and 135-A prescribe that Provincial and City governments receiving the BDP funds from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) shall provide regular reports for the evaluation of the BDP-funded activities in their areas of responsibility. It must also be noted that as provided by the General Appropriations Act of 2021, the NTF-ELCAC is required to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the implementation of the BDP.
In the name of good governance, we take it upon ourselves to ensure that all possible means to the attainment of our objectives at the NTF-ELCAC are met. As public servants, our sworn duty is to our countrymen first and foremost. At the NTF-ELCAC, we cannot allow that these communities are subject to the whims and caprices of politics especially since for these people, the BDP is a primary answer to their collective aspirations for a better life.
HERTOGENES C. ESPERON, JR.
Vice Chairman, NTF-ELCAC