Senate panel leaves Duterte’s P19-B anti-insurgency program untouched
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate finance committee retained the controversial P19-billion anti-insurgency funds in the proposed 2021 national budget despite calls from several senators to instead realign it for other health and disaster relief.
Senator Sonny Angara on Tuesday said his committee “did not touch” the allocation for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Angara is set to sponsor House Bill No. 7727 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), containing the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 during the plenary session later Tuesday.
“Kami sa committee report, we did not touch the NTF-ELCAC. Hindi namin ginalaw ‘yung NTF-ELCAC because that is one of the flagship programs of the President,” the senator told reporters in an online interview.
(In our committee report, we did not touch the NTF-ELCAC. We did not touch it because that is one of the flagship programs of the President.)
“The [Department of Budget Management] told us that, if possible, ‘wag natin galawin [that we do not touch it] because the President is very adamant that we solve the underlying problems of insurgency which [are] not just political or ideological, but it is also development,” he added.
Earlier, opposition senators called for the reallocation of the NTF-ELCAC funds to augment the budget for the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program as well as for disaster relief following the onslaught of Super Typhoon Rolly.
Nevertheless, Angara said his panel heeded the request of senators to provide additional funding for disaster and calamity response.
“The members of the minority as well as members of the majority had called for increased disaster and calamity funds, we funded it from other sources,” he said.
Angara also pointed out that the budget earmarked for the NTF-ELCAC will address the “underlying causes of insurgency” in the country.
Of the P19-billion total budget of the NTF-ELCAC, more than P16 billion is allotted for over 800 barangays cleared of insurgency.
“The P16 billion-plus is for 822 barangays with a budget of P20 million per barangay. ‘Yung P20 million na ‘yun, meron pang division ‘yun. I think there’s P10 million or P12 million for road development, there’s an amount for school buildings, there’s an amount for planting trees, tapos meron ding for wifi,” Angara said.
(The P16 billion-plus is for 822 barangays with a budget of P20 million per barangay. The P20 million is divided into different projects. I think there’s P10 million or P12 million for road development, there’s an amount for school buildings, planting of trees and even wifi installation.)
“It’s supposed to be an integrated program para itong mga barangays, ‘yung underlying causes of insurgency [which are] underdevelopment, lack of government services…Not just a purely military solution, but a developmental solution,” he added.
(It’s supposed to be an integrated program so that these barangays would also be free of underlying causes of insurgency, which are underdevelopment, lack of government services…Not just a purely military solution, but a developmental solution.)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.