No less than President Duterte will take the lead in the government’s campaign to eradicate the threat of local communist insurgency to ensure that it will be completed at the soonest time possible, National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. bared in a statement.
Esperon said Duterte was scheduled to visit Northern Mindanao (Region 10) on Friday, March 5, to personally oversee the security situation in the area after it was freed by the military from the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA). Duterte will make similar trips to Eastern Visayas (Region 8) and Calabarzon (Region 4A or Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) within the month, he added.
“President Duterte intends to visit each region in the country on a weekly basis for consultation and dialogues, as well as to grace the regional implementation of the Barangay Development Program (BDP),” Esperon said.
According to Esperon, Duterte will meet with officials and chairpersons of 822 barangays (villages) that would be the initial recipients of the BDP budget. These barangays were considered as NPA guerilla bases until they were cleared of NPA influence by the military from 2016 to 2019.
The BDP is the flagship program of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), headed by Duterte as the chairperson. It seeks to transform former areas of conflict through the delivery of basic social services to barangays.
“The clearing operations involved a two-pronged strategy of, first, dismantling existing guerilla fronts in threatened and affected communities, and second, bringing in basic necessities and services to isolated and disadvantaged groups,” Esperon explained.
Under the BDP, which has a budget of P16.4 billion, each barangay will receive a “package of development programs” worth P20 million. The budget will be used for the construction of farm to market roads, school buildings, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and skills and livelihood trainings.
“These programs are aimed at addressing issues that the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA utilize in their propaganda and recruitment, such as poverty, isolation, disease, hunger, and lack of education and livelihood opportunities,” Esperon said.
The military prioritized its clearing operations in Davao and Caraga regions, among the recipients of the bulk of DBP budget, from 2016 to 2019 due to the “expansion” of NPA’s operations in the said areas. As of 2020, a total of 1,376 barangays were already cleared of communist groups’ influence, most of which are located in Bicol, Samar, and Negros provinces.
The BDP funds will be released to the provincial government or city government where the recipient barangay is located. Esperon assured that the release of funds is covered by Local Budget Circular 135 and 135-A of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) which ensures the ease of execution of the package of programs under the BDP.
“With the President leading the charge, we foresee a quick degradation of the capabilities of the CPP-NPA-NDF [National Democratic Front of the Philippines]. We are confident that very soon, countryside development will finally take off to high levels,” Esperon said.