Over 1,000 'NPA-cleared barangays' included in proposed P28.1-B BDP budget-DILG

There was no shortcut made in declaring that a total of 1,406 barangays in various parts of the country were already cleared from the influence of the communist rebels, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) maintained Wednesday, Sept. 15.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said made the clarification in response to the claim of Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas during the budget deliberation wherein the department was asked to explain the inclusion of those barangays in the P28.1 billion Barangay Development Program (BDP) for next year.

Año clarified that the process of clearing and identifying the beneficiary-barangays under the BDP follows a whole-of-nation approach involving the barangay residents, barangay and local government officials, national government agencies (NGA), and the National Task Force-Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“We did not choose the barangays that are included in the BDP out of thin air. Lahat ng mga barangay na dati ay na ilalim ng impluwensya ng mga CTGs (communist terrorist groups) ay dumaan sa mahabang proseso kasama mismo ang mga barangay at local officials at iba’t ibang sektor sa pamayanan bago pa man sila maisama sa listahan ng BDP beneficiaries (All of the barangays previously under the influence of the CTGs when through stringent process in coordination with the barangay, local officials and various sectors of the localities before being included in the BDP list of beneficiaries),’’ Año said.

“For 2022, it is proposed that a total of 1,406 barangays cleared of the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People's Army- National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDF) threat and influence will be included in the BDP. Most of these 1,406 barangays are located in the Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and Caraga Regions where the CPP/NPA/NDF operates. Just like this year, each barangay recipient shall be receiving a package of programs, activities, and projects (PAPs) worth a total of, and not exceeding, P20-million,’’ the DILG said.

During the budget hearing, Brosas questioned how the government identified if a barangay is cleared from insurgency which made it eligible for funding under the BDP.

Año explained that the process started with the conduct of a community support program (CSP) by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in barangays influenced or infiltrated by the New People’s Army.

Following the clearing, validation, and evaluation by the AFP and PNP, Año noted the list of cleared barangays is submitted to the NTF-ELCAC which reviews the list and endorses the same to the DILG and other agencies.

Año added that the barangays identified by the AFP/PNP are validated again by the DILG this time through the five-step Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP), starting with the organization of the RCSP team and RCSP core teams which shall be immersed in the barangays; the identification of governance gaps and needed development interventions; the implementation of priority programs, projects and activities; empowerment of LGUs and the communities; and sustainability measures.

After the RCSP, preparations for the projects and programs for funding under the Barangay Development Program (BDP) are then developed with the participation of the barangay residents, stakeholders, and other national government agencies. It is then endorsed to NTF-ELCAC through the municipal, provincial and regional ELCAC task forces for funding.

“Hindi gawa-gawa at walang hokus-pokus sa pagpili ng mga barangay na kasama sa BDP at sa pagtukoy ng mga projects para dito. Ang lahat ng BDP projects na nasa listahan ay lehitimo, dinaan sa konsultasyon at pinili mismo ng mga residente base sa kanilang pangangailangan. Ilang beses ang validation (Choosing the barangay recipients in the BDP and selecting their intended projects were not pre-arranged and not a product of mere imagination. All the projects in the BDP list are legitimate that were subjected to consultations and were chosen by the residents themselves based on their needs. The validation were done several times),’’ he added.

Año stressed that the BDP projects such as farm-to-market roads, classrooms, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and livelihood projects were identified by the barangays themselves to bring sustainable development programs to the said conflict-prone areas.

The DILG secretary insisted that Brosas’s claim that the proposed P28.1-billion NTF-ELCAC budget for 2022 “is an election war chest that will be given to administration allies is a rehashed and baseless allegation.”

“This is an old issue that Brosas and her cohorts raised last year and we already explained to them that this cannot be war chest or pork because the funds are not handled by the NTF ELCAC or even by the DILG. The funds are directly released by the National Treasury to the LGUs who handle the implementation of the projects on the ground,” he said.

BDP funds for far-flung, poor barangays

DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya said that the SBDP funds are for far-flung, poor barangays that have yet to experience basic government services like roads, water, and electricity, things that have are already been taken for granted by those living in the cities and economic centers.

He pointed out that of the proposed P16.44-billion fiscal year 2021 fund for 2,283 SBDP projects, 1,995 are infrastructure projects worth P15.86-billion including farm-to-market roads, health stations, school buildings, water supply and sanitation, rural electrification, reconstruction, rehabilitation and repair; and housing. The remaining 288 are non-infrastructure projects worth P419.997-million such as agricultural, livelihood and training; COVID-19-related projects and assistance to indigents.

For the P15.86-billion worth of 1,995 infrastructure projects, Malaya said 928 are farm-to-market roads in 747 barangays amounting to P11.631-billion while 157 projects are health stations in 150 barangays with a total cost of P498.726-million.

Some 150 SBDP projects are school buildings in 132 barangays with a total cost of P608.678-million; and the remaining 518 are water supply and sanitation projects in 404 barangays totaling P2.398-billion.

He added that another 173 are rural electrification in 157 barangays with an aggregate total of P491.784-million; 32 are reconstruction, rehabilitation and repair projects in 24 barangays amounting to P129.2-million; seven are housing projects in seven barangays worth P22.4-million; and 30 more on other infra-projects in 21 barangays worth P78.4-million.

As for the P419.997-million budget for 288 non-infrastructure projects, Malaya said 177 are agricultural, livelihood and training projects in 104 barangays amounting to P283.951-million; eight are COVID-19 vaccination and other health-related projects in eight barangays with a total cost of P17-million; and 103 are assistance to indigent individuals and families including medical, burial, transportation, food, cash for work and education in 72 barangays worth P119.046-million. (Chito A. Chavez)