P1.5B dev’t fund earmarked for over 5,000 villages affected by insurgencyBy Philip C. Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine government has set aside at least P1.5 billion to help more than 5,000 barangays affected by armed conflict across the country in an effort to address the roots of insurgency and secession, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said Thursday.
OPAPP Assistant Secretary Rosalie Romero said the Aquino administration was planning to pour development aid to 5,220 barangays though its Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) program before its term ends to help resolve the problems fueling the decades-long insurgency in the countryside.
“While we are negotiating with rebel groups, the government has also taken a second track to address the issues on the ground that is fueling the conflict,” Romero said.
“This program is national government’s peace and development framework to reduce poverty, improve governance and empower communities affected by armed conflict,” she added.
Romero said that as of last year, the government had helped 516 barangays affected by conflict in 20 provinces.
For 2012, the government intends to triple the number to 1,622 barangays and eventually help a total 5,220 barangays by 2016, Romero said.
“We got these numbers after meeting with the military to determine which barangays were suffering due to armed conflict. These barangays need help and special attention because how can you go to places where there are firefights,” she said.
“Development is delayed and what happens is they are further mired in poverty. So, we tell government agencies that these places should get more aid. It shouldn’t be business as usual,” she added.
Romero said the affected barangays they had identified were located in the Cordillera and Bicol regions, Quezon province, Mindoro island, Samar, Compostela Valley, Davao, Caraga, Negros, Zamboanga, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-tawi, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
As of July 31, 2012, the government had already released P1,016,953,602 to communities under the Pamana program.
“This is not giving money so that the rebels could better arm themselves. These are given directly to the communities so that they can recover from being victims of armed conflict,” she said.
The development aid comes in the form of shelters, roads, and improving the delivery of basic services to these conflict affected barangays.
“And you will not see the face of our boss, or politicians, prominently shown in these project areas,” Romero said.
“What we have are markers showing how much the project costs, how long it would take to finish, the number of beneficiaries, and which barangays are involved,” she added.