BALER, Aurora – Local leaders have opposed calls to defund the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which has programs that provide aid to insurgency-affected areas in this province and Nueva Ecija.
Mayor Amado M. Geneta of Maria Aurora, this province said in an interview on Wednesday that the move would give opportunities to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to exploit communities anew.
Geneta said the NTF-ELCAC’s budget allotted for the Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) has helped in addressing the root cause of insurgency, as well as in bringing peace to communities already cleared of communist influence.
“We appeal to those who are calling to defund the NTF-ELCAC to open their hearts and minds to the plea of our people. Defunding the task force would be a huge disservice to the barangays who fought long and hard to clear their communities from communist influence and insurgency that has brought nothing but fear and poverty aggravated by violence. Our people truly deserve an insurgency-free community for them to live a peaceful and meaningful life,” he said.
“Let us bear in mind that the creation of NTF-ELCAC is a ‘whole-of-nation approach’ to end the insurgency issues and not to wage out war. The funds are mainly intended for the development of hinterlands and far-flung barangays and encourage the rebels and insurgents to go back to the folds of the law to start new lives. Do not let our progress to waste. Do not defund NTF-ELCAC. Instead, we should work together for the future of our nation,” Geneta added.
Mayor Ariel A. de Jesus of San Luis town, also this province, expressed dismay on the proposal by some quarters to remove the budget for the NTF-ELCAC’s SBDP.
“Sa katunayan, simula ng mailunsad ang SBDP ay nagawa nitong pababain ang kaso ng kriminalidad sa amin pong komunidad na siyang may malaking epekto sa pag-unlad ng aming pamayanan. Kung kaya’t ako po ay hindi sumasang-ayon sa mosyong ito ng pagde-defund (In fact, since the SBDP was launched, it has been able to reduce the number of crime cases in our community, which has a huge impact on the development of our community. So, I do not agree with the motion of defunding),” de Jesus said.
Maria Elena Nicer, president of the Liga ng mga Barangay in Maria Aurora town, said the NTF-ELCAC provides help to the villages.
“Ang layunin nito ay mapa-unlad at maisa-ayos ang mga kabuhayan ng mga tao lalo na ang mga nasa rural at urban na barangay upang mabawasan ang panghihikayat ng mga makakaliwang grupo o NPA. Mabigyan ng mga pagsasanay, pangkabuhayan at mga proyektong mas kailangan ng barangay (Its purpose is to improve and organize the livelihood of the people, especially those in rural and urban villages to reduce the persuasion of leftist groups (NPAs) and to provide training, livelihood and projects that the barangays need more),” Nicer said.
Mayor Jobby P. Emata of Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija said the NTF-ELCAC is a good program of the government, being a huge help in eradicating the wrongdoings of leftist groups in the country.
“Saksi po ako bilang punong lingkod bayan ng isang malayo, payak at maliit subalit papaunlad na bayan, kung paano nakakatulong ang mga programa ng NTF-ELCAC sa paglago ng mga bayan ng katulad sa amin (I am a witness as chief public servant of a remote, simple and small but developing town on how the NTF-ELCAC programs contribute to the growth of the municipalities like ours),” Emata said.
He said defunding the NTF-ELCAC is removing the hope and long-term solution that could finally put an end to the country’s insurgency problem.
Meanwhile, Randy Casamis, Sangguniang Bayan sectoral representative also in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, appealed to lawmakers to reconsider their proposal to defund the program.
“Hindi po makatarungan na tanggalin nila ang pondo ng NTF-ELCAC dahil marami na po ang nagawa ang programang ito, katulad na lang po sa mga liblib na lugar at sa mga IP (indigenous peoples) communities, marami na po ang natulungan at nagkaroon ng mga hanapbuhay dahil nga po sa mga programang NTF-ELCAC kaya malaking tutol po ako sa pag defund ng pondo nito (It is not fair to remove the fund of the NTF-ELCAC because the program has helped a lot. Like in remote areas and the IP communities, it helped a lot and because of the NTF-ELCAC program, many people got jobs, that is why I oppose the calls for defunding the program),” Casamis said.
Emmanuel Domingo, Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in Nueva Ecija, said the SBDP program of the NTF-ELCAC has a big contribution to the development of rural communities.
Domingo expressed concern that the defunding of the NTF-ELCAC might cause suffering to IPs like them.
“Huwag ng alisin ang pondo para sa SBDP ng NTF-ELCAC dahil lubos po kaming nakikinabang sa programang ito ng gobyerno sa mga usaping pang-edukasyon, pang-kalusugan, pang-kabuhayan at higit sa lahat sa aspetong pang-kapayapaan at alang-alang na rin po sa kapakanan naming mga katutubo (Do not remove the funds for the SBDP of NTF-ELCAC because we are benefiting from this government program in matters of education, health, livelihood and above all, in the aspect of peace and also for the sake of the indigenous people),” he said.
Lt. Col. Reandrew P. Rubio, commander of the Philippine Army’s 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion, said the “statements of our local chief executives and local leaders are clear manifestations that they are opposing the proposed defunding of NTF ELCAC funds.”
“They really believe that ELCAC is a good mechanism in bringing infrastructure projects and development in the countryside,” he said. (PNA)