MANILA – Defunding the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will mean taking away funds intended for the Barangay Development Program (BDP) and its beneficiaries.
Major Jose Fernandez Jr, chief of the Las Navas Municipal Police Station, in a recent interview, said the Northern Samar town is one of the hotbeds of communist insurgency.
Las Navas is composed of 53 villages, with only three located in the poblacion (commercial area). The rest of the 50 barangays are in the mountains.
“’Yung insurgency, isa yun sa problema namin. Sabi nga dito makakapunta kayo pero hindi natin alam kung makakabalik pa kayo. Sabi sabi lang yun dito kaya ‘yun talaga ang main na problema dito is ‘yung malalayong barangay hindi talaga namin ma-control, ma-monitor ‘yung situation (Insurgency is a major problem here. As they say, you can come here but it’s uncertain if you can return. That is our problem. We are unable to control or monitor the situation, especially in faraway barangays),” he said.
Villages are usually caught in crossfires.
“’Yung community ay hindi naman aware na magkakaron ng ganung encounter or ambush so mostly ay affected talaga ‘yung community. ‘Yun ang isang problema dito, gawa nga ng ‘yung Las Navas ay meron tayong insurgency problem (The community is not aware that an encounter or an ambush is going to happen because we have a serious insurgency problem here),” Fernandez said.
Long history of sufferings
In a recent column written by Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary and NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson Lorraine Marie Badoy, posted on the Philippine News Agency website, she said that due to the extreme poverty situation in communities like Las Navas, residents become easy pickings for communist terrorist group (CTGs).
Badoy wrote that there are communities with long histories of “grief, suffering, and exploitation” in the hands of the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
“The terrorists only had to tell them a half-truth: your government cares nothing for you. The terrorists, of course, conveniently forgot to tell the whole truth: that they cared even less for the people and were heavily invested in keeping them extremely poor, ignorant, and fearful,” Badoy wrote.
Fernandez said Las Navas residents need help and that infrastructure development would greatly benefit communities.
“’Yung kalsada, ‘yung dinaanan namin is puro putik. Wala pa silang kalsada, ‘yung farm to market. Actually may nakalaan naman yung LGU (local government unit) kaya lang hindi naman namin controlled ‘yung implementation kung kailan pero yun ang naririnig ko meron naman talaga (The road which we treaded is muddy. They do not have a farm-to-market road. Actually, I hear that the LGU has funds but we cannot control its implementation on when they intend to do it),” Fernandez said.
Other problems are potable water supply in communities and houses and lack of health services.
“’Yung mga health center sa barangay hindi rin mapuntahan ng mga nurses natin at yung doctor natin dito sa Las Navas ay iisa lang so ‘yung 53 hindi naman nya malilliibot lahat ‘yun. Isa rin yun sa mga problema (The nurses cannot reach the health centers in the barangays and we only have one doctor here in Las Navas and so he cannot visit all the 53 barangays, that is another problem),” Fernandez said.
Defunding the BDP of the NTF ELCAC will deprive the people of help from the national government.
“Malaking problema kung ide-defund talaga, kung hindi ma-i-implement ‘yung para sa barangay. Malaking problema. ‘Yung support talaga, ‘yung mga project na nakalaan sa barangay kung i-implement ‘yung development ay mas mabilis, mas maganda (It’s a big problem. If it [BDP] is defunded, if it is not implemented in the barangays. If only the support, the project intended for the communities are implemented, the development would be faster),” Fernandez said.
Badoy said a total of 822 barangays, that include Calantiao in Bubon; San Miguel in Las Navas; and Hitapian, Osang, and Nagoocan in Catubig, all in Northern Samar and located in Geographically Isolated Depressed Areas are getting PHP20 million worth of projects through the BDP-NTF-ELCAC program.
She said that the projects can take residents in areas like Las Navas out of poverty and “make them formidable against the CPP-NPA-NDF and end this 52-year communist scourge in our country”.
She said residents in affected towns will finally have electricity, potable water in their homes, a health center right in their communities, a school in their barangay, and they will be provided with livelihood training and projects to get them off and running.
“And each of these barangays will finally have farm-to-market roads. With these roads, the world opens up to them. The excluded gets Included, the forgotten, remembered. The government will have access to them so that badly needed services will be theirs. Those who’ve not felt government all their lives will now do,” Badoy said.
The NTF-ELCAC, created by virtue of Executive Order 70 issued on Dec. 4, 2018, is tasked to “provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach to aid in the realization of collective aspirations for inclusive and sustainable peace.”
BDP is a hallmark program of NTF ELCAC with the end goal of bringing development to conflict-prone communities. (PNA)