National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Sunday denied anew that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has ever controlled or manipulated funds meant for the Barangay Development Program (BDP).
Esperon, NTF-ELCAC vice-chair, said he was saddened by misinformation regarding the NTF-ELCAC’s BDP, noting that it reeked of “politicking.”
This, after opposition lawmakers insisted that the task force’s multibillion allocation for 2022 was considered pork barrel, which the Supreme Court had declared illegal.
“The NTF-ELCAC does not, in any circumstance, control nor manipulate the funds appropriated for the BDP. Rather, the NTF-ELCAC is responsible for harmonizing and coordinating the efforts both on the national and local level,” he said in a press statement.
The BDP, the flagship project of the NTF-ELCAC, intends to bring sustainable development programs to conflict-prone and conflict-affected barangays.
Barangay beneficiaries will benefit from the BDP’s five core programs which range from farm to market roads, classrooms, water and sanitation systems, health stations, and livelihood projects. Taken together, these activities bring underserviced communities front and center.
Esperon noted that the NTF-ELAC ensures all possible means to attain their objectives in the name of good governance.
“We cannot allow that these communities are subject to the whims and caprices of politics especially since for these people, the BDP is a primary answer to their collective aspirations for a better life,” he said.
No preferential treatment
Esperon also disputed claims that there was “preferential treatment” in identifying barangay beneficiaries.
Under the BDP, he said each barangay recipient will receive a package of programs, activities, and projects (PAPs) worth a total of, and not exceeding, PHP20 million.
“These PAPs, identified through the collaboration among regional and provincial line agencies, local chief executives, and other local stakeholders, are endorsed for funding under the BDP,” he said.
For Fiscal Year 2022, he said a total of 1,406 barangays cleared of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) threat and influence will be included in the BDP.
Most of these 1,406 barangays are located in the Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and Caraga Regions.
He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will monitor and evaluate projects under the BDP while officials from the head office of the NTF-ELCAC will also continuously inspect and monitor the implementation of the projects.
Regional Task Forces of NTF-ELCAC which are all led by Cabinet members will also conduct their own inspections.
As of Sept. 3, he said 99.3 percent of the BDP funds have already been released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) directly to the respective provincial and city governments where barangay recipients are located.
Esperon also pointed out that the DILG and NTF-ELCAC use different monitoring tools based on the Regional Project Monitoring and Evaluation System (RPMES) of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the DILG’s Subaybayan website, the BDP Transparency Page at the NTF-ELCAC website, third party monitoring by non-government organizations, and several social media accounts of local government units as per DILG Memorandum Circular 2021-040.
Local Budget Circulars 135 and 135-A prescribe that provincial and city governments receiving the BDP funds from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) should provide regular reports for the evaluation of the BDP-funded activities in their areas of responsibility, he added.
As provided by the General Appropriations Act of 2021, he said the NTF-ELCAC is required to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the implementation of the BDP.
“All these overlapping mechanisms ensure that the highest standards of transparency and accountability are followed,” he said. (PNA)