MANILA – Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Monday stressed that legislators’ move to slash the proposed budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will hamper development efforts in the countryside, especially in conflict-affected areas.
In an interview, Secretary Andanar expressed his support for the Duterte Administration’s anti-insurgency efforts, stressing that the bulk of the proposed budget is allocated for the reintegration programs of former rebels, which is advantageous for the government as this would help entice more members of the leftist group to surrender the armed struggle.
“Ako’y sang-ayon kay Senador Bong Go at President Rodrigo Duterte sa NTF-ELCAC proposed budget na dapat hindi ito tapyasan sapagkat alam naman natin na ang NTF-ELCAC hindi naman ito puro military operations. Whole-of-nation approach nga ang tawag dito [I agree with Sen. Bong Go and President Rodrigo Duterte that the proposed budget for the NTF-ELCAC should not be slashed because as we all know this is not entirely for military operations. There is a reason why this is called the whole-of-nation approach],’ he said.
The PCOO chief slammed rumors that the budget will be used for military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“Yung pondo na yun ay yun yung ginagamit para mabigyan ng trabaho yung mga walang trabaho na mga sumurender na rebelde. Nagbibigay din tayo ng edukasyon, pabahay para ma-reintegrate sila sa ating lipunan [The budget for that goes to providing jobs to former rebels. We also provide them with education and housing in order to ensure that their reintegration to the society would go well],” he said.
“Yung sinasabi na ito’y para sa military operations, fake news po yun [Those rumors saying it’s for military operations, it’s fake news],” he added.
With the help of the task group and its member agencies, over 18,000 rebels have already surrendered to the authorities since 2016. Communities through their respective local government units were also able to engage in the process of freeing their place from the clutches of the communist terrorist groups (CTGs).
For 2020 alone, the NTF-ELCAC’s banner program Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) assisted 822 barangays cleared of CTG influence, providing them with P20 million worth of development projects each. These constitute over 2,200 projects, including farm-to-market roads, water and sanitation projects, health stations, and school buildings.