The National Electrification Administration (NEA) should earmark some of its budget for the residents in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, noted that not a single centavo of its proposed P1.627-billion appropriation for the implementation of the Sitio Electrification Program (SEP) for next year has been allocated for the remote villages in the said region.
“Please consider it because it’s one of the desires of our kababayans in BARMM, to get electrified especially in that area surrounded by insurgency,” Gathcalian said during the hearing of the Senate finance subcommittee on the P3.896-billion budget of the NEA for 2022.
”It’s one way to ward off insurgency by making sure electricity is continuously flowing. Without electricity, there’s poverty,” Gatchalian stressed.
NEA administrator Emmanuel Juaneza explained to the panel that the peace and order situation in the BARMM has led them to exclude the region in its SEP funding for next year.
According to Juaneza, the NEA has been coordinating with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to provide them support in addressing the peace and order problem which has been one of their major hurdles in remote areas and such is the case in BARMM.
The newly-appointed NEA administration assured that even with the present allocation given to the agency, they are willing to reallocate more to the BARMM area. They are also discussing the matter with the Department of Energy (DOE).
“We might be able to source some funds, P450-million I think. We can allocate it to BARMM,” Juaneza told Gatchalian.
Gatchalian welcomed this move as he noted that the NTF-ELCAC has billions of funds for the barangay development program of the NTF-ELCAC to clear the strongholds of communists and insurgents and pave for the construction of farm-to-market roads, schools, livelihood programs, and establishment of rural electrification.
“It’s important to reach out to them so that they will feel the services of the government. I think we should really look at BARMM and poverty-stricken areas there so that the government can reach out to them. And electricity is one way to reduce poverty,” the senator said.
“I think it’s common knowledge that BARMM is one of the poorest areas in our country. We need to energize our sitios there to make sure that the government is present and reaching out to those areas,” he stressed.