Will the P28-billion budget of NTF-ELCAC be reduced to P4 billion?

By Mario Casayuran / Manila Bulletin

Sen. Sonny Angara

Majority of senators have pressed for the reduction of the P28-billion NTF-ELCAC budget.


Angara said the House of Representatives has kept the proposed budget intact.


Senator Ronald ‘’Bato’’ dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, warned that the Senate might be given the ‘’pro-NPA’’ tag if it reduces the budget for NTF-ELCAC whose program.


NPA stands for ‘’New People’s Army,’’ the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).


Dela Rosa said the program aims to develop the barangays, the spawning ground for NPA regulars, and to win the ‘’hearts and minds’’ of Filipinos, usually in the rural areas.


The final figure for the NTF-ELCAC budget would be known only after the period of amendments that follows the period of interpellation of the Senate debate on the proposed 2022 P5 trillion national budget.


A bicameral conference committee meeting between the Senate and House of Representatives panel would take place to iron out the differing provisions of the Senate and House budget bills.


Congress leaders expect the passage of the national budget before they go on a Christmas break on Dec. 18.


Based on senators’ caucus presided by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III last Monday, Angara said they do not want a re-enacted budget for next fiscal year.


Angara expressed optimism that the Senate budget version would be approved on Friday, Nov. 19, the scheduled final day of the budget debate.


‘’Hopefully the period of interpellation ends Thursday,’’ he explained.


During a DWIZ radio interview, Angara said Malacanang officials have not contacted him.


Those who have called him, according to Angara, are local government officials, particularly governors who want the NTF-ELCAC barangay development program to be undertaken as scheduled.


Angara earlier said a decision to reduce NTF-ELCAC’s budget was arrived at last week when NTF-ELCAC officials have not submitted a report on how their budget was obligated or disbursed.


At that time, the initial NTF-ELCAC report stated that it completed 26 out of more than 2,000 projects.


This was the figure when the Senate report was being routed for signature among senators, Angara said, In the budget debate last Thursday, Angara said the NTF-ELCAC obligation and procurement report was submitted only last Monday. It should have been given early, he said.


The latest report showed that 900 projects are on the pre-procurement stage, 700 on the procurement stage and 500 are on the ‘’on-going’’ stage.


Angara said the concept behind the barangay development program of NTF-ELCAC is good and there is focus on its implementation.


There is no focus when its funds are spread out to various government departments, he added.


Asked about the timeline of the NTF-ELCAC barangay development program, Angara said President Duterte issued Executive Order 70 creating the multi-stakeholder NTF-ELCAC whose time line is five years.


From P1 billion in 2020, the government increased the budget of NTF-ELCAC to P19 billion in 2021.


Involved in this program are 19 government departments and agencies with President Duterte as chairman of NTF-ELCAC and retired General Hermogenes Esperon as vice chairman.

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