P16.4B for villages to weaken Reds, develop economy, says Esperon
MANILA, Philippines—The P16.4 billion budget being sought for a counterinsurgency program to bring projects to villages would lead to economic development in the long-run and weaken communist rebels, according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Thursday (Oct. 1).
He said at a press briefing that the program would make it difficult for the rebels to recruit new members.
The “Support to the Development Program”, a component of what Duterte defense officials said was a whole-of-government approach to the insurgency, offers P20 million in development projects to each of 822 villages that had been cleared of communist rebels.
“In the long run we will not be continually addressing a conflict. Instead, we are building resilient communities that will bring economic development to the countryside,” Esperon said.
“NPA will lose its source of strength,” he said in Filipino, referring to New People’s Army, the armed component of Communist Party of the Philippines.
The NPA has been waging a countryside rebellion for 50 years already, fuelled by agrarian unrest and social injustice in areas where there’s barely any government presence. It has become one of the world’s longest-running insurgencies.
Esperon said while the village development programs appeared to be costly, it would be more expensive to “forever maintain” one company of an infantry unit, which he estimated would cover three villages.
“If there would be no guerrilla bases, they can’t hide anymore,” Esperon said in Filipino about communist rebels. He said the villages had been “neglected that’s why they cling to an organization that gives false hopes.”
The budget proposal drew controversy after opposition members of the House of Representatives alleged that the program was a form of “pork barrel” for ex-military generals.
Esperon brushed off the allegations.
“Who doesn’t want this to continue?” he said. “I believe those who don’t want this are pro-NPA,” he added.
“Don’t say it’s the pork barrel of General Esperon because the implementing agency which will release funds to municipalities is DBM,” he said in Filipino, using the acronym for Department of Budget and Management.
“I, as vice chairman of NTF ELCAC is just doing coordination action,” he said. NTF ELCAC stands for National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Edited by TSB
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