Senator Panfilo M. Lacson on Monday backed the call of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III to retain the P16.4-billion allocation to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) embedded in the proposed 2021 P4.5 trillion national budget.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate National Defense and Security Committee, said the fund is not even at the disposal of the security sector since it is part of the Special Purpose Fund under the Assistance to Local Government Units (ALGU) and is intended to hold and develop barangays that are cleared of New People’s Army (NPA) influence.
As such, it will go to development programs such as farm-to-market roads and livelihood, as part of confidence-building measures to prevent the insurgency problem from returning, he said.
The NPA is the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
‘’With this, affected barangays will no longer be vulnerable to attempts by the NPA to recruit members especially from indigenous peoples. Pagkakataon ito pati sa mga NPA sa mga lugar na ito na magbagong-buhay,’’ he said. (This is a chance for those in the cleared areas and even the NPA to turn a new leaf.)
Lacson said the insurgency problem is more than 50 years old, easily the oldest in Asia.
‘’It is time we take the needed steps to address the insurgency problem,’’ he added.
National security officials, particularly former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., and now national security adviser, have pushed for the retention of the NTF ELCAC budget.