Development projects have started in at least six barangays in Northern Samar that were identified as beneficiaries of the Barangay Development Program (BDP), an official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) disclosed Saturday, May 15.
Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for social media affairs and sectoral concerns, identified the beneficiaries as Barangay San Miguel in Las Navas City; Brgy. Calantiao in Bobon; Brgy. Hitapian, Brgy. Nagoocan, and Brgy. Osang in Catubig; and Brgy. Quezon in Catarman.
"Out of how many barangays, anim lang ang nakakuha ng programs sa (only six were able to avail of programs under the) BDP and I got to visit four of them," Badoy told the Manila Bulletin.
Communist insurgency has long been a cause of headache for government officials in Northern Samar, one of the three provinces which comprise the Samar Island in the Eastern Visayas (Region 8). It is composed of 24 municipalities and 570 barangays.
In Barangay San Miguel, data from the the NTF-ELCAC showed that the funding for the construction of a Level 2 water system worth P2.07 million and a one-lane farm-to-market road worth P17.93 million have already been approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
"The daily reality of the people of Brgy. San Miguel is they don't have potable water. In order for them to get potable water, they have to walk through the mud, go to the water refilling station, and carry that burden back to the muddy . 'Yung pathway umaabot sa knee kapag tag-ulan (The pathway of mud reaches knee-deep during rainy season)," she added, recalling her experience when NTF-ELCAC officials visited the village earlier this week.
The NTF-ELCAC official said these are the reasons why the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), were able to recruit poor residents into the communist movement.
"These are barangays that are not only underserved but unserved by the government which is why they are easy to exploit by the CPP-NPA-NDF. You only have to tell them the partial truth that the government did not care for them," she said.
But through the construction of the water system and farm to market road, Badoy said the residents of Barangay San Miguel will no longer have to endure the hardships caused by the lack of infrastructure programs in the area just to have an access to potable water, and eventually reject the influence of the CPP-NPA.
Meanwhile in Barangay Calantiao in Bobon town, the NTF-ELCAC said among the development programs being implemented include the contruction of a Level 2 potable water system worth P6 million; a health station worth P6 million; livelihood and technical programs worth P2 million; a rural electrification project worth P1 million, and social service "assistance" to indigent families worth P5 million.
In Barangay Hitapian in Catubig town, approved were the construction of a school building worth P1.9 million; concreting of a farm to market road worth P14 million; a barangay health station worth P3 million; establishment of a bread and pastry livelihood program worth P500,000 and a mallard duck production project worth P500,000; and "assistance to individuals in difficult circumstances" worth P100,000.
In Barangay Nagoocan in Catubig, the funds were already released for the construction of a Level 2 water system worth P4.875 million; a health station worth P4.5 million; an electrification system worth P5 million; establishment of a dressmaking livelihood program worth P300,000, bread and pastry production project worth P830,000, and electric installation and maintenance project worth P400,000; procurement of two hand tractors for an agricultural project worth P245,000; a "cash for work" assistance to indigent individuals and families worth P2.05 million; another cash assistance to indigent individuals and families for their medical needs worth P1 million; and a third cash assistance program for educational needs of high school and college students worth P800,000.
In Barangay Osang in Catubig, officials are now starting the construction of a school building worth P6 million; electrification system worth P5 million; procurement of five hand tractors and farm inputs worth P350,000; rehabilitation of the water system worth P2.05 million; health station worth P5 million; establishment of a handicraft training for livelihood program worth P100,000 and hog production worth P1 million; and a cash for work assistance to indigent individuals and families worth P500,000.
Lastly in Barangay Quezon, approved development programs were the rehabilitation of its water system worth P2.5 million; construction of an elementary school building worth P8.45 million and a high school building worth P8.45 million; and cash assistance to indigent individuals and families worth P600,000.
Total funds disbursed
According to Badoy, around P12,304,900,000 or 75 percent of the total P16.44-billion BDP fund have already been disbursed to the recipients of the BDP.
Under the BDP, the flagship program of the NTF-ELCAC, a total of 822 barangays were identified as qualified beneficiaries to receive P20 million each for their development programs.
The proposal for these projects were submitted by the LGUs to the DBM until March 15, and as of this writing, the funding for all of the 1,756 projects were approved by the DBM, according to the NTF-ELCAC website.
Badoy maintained that the funds did not go through the NTF-ELCAC but were directly downloaded by the Bureau of Treasury to the local government units (LGUs) after their posposals were approved by the DBM.
"Hindi siya P20 million in one go. It depends. First you get a certain amount and then you complete the project. After let's say 30 percent completion, another amount is downloaded and the government checks so we monitor all the time," she said.
The NTF-ELCAC has been pushing through with the implementation of the development projects in the NPA-freed barangays amid calls by some senators and congressmen to defund the task force over the alleged red-tagging of personalities such as celebrities, journalists, activists, and others by its spokespersons, particularly Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.
Badoy, however, said that the NTF-ELCAC "is not engaged in red-tagging, only truth tagging."