MANILA--National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Saturday said the P16.4-billion budget proposal for the government's anti-insurgency task force would be used to spur economic development in far-flung areas where rebels used to settle.
Speaking to Teleradyo's "Kuwentuhang Lokal," Esperon dismissed allegations the funding allocated for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) under the proposed 2021 national budget was a form of "pork barrel" for generals.
"Ito ay social and economic program that will free up the countryside that are conflicted. Alam naman natin na hindi maka-take off ang ekonomiya sa mga lugar na may gulo," he said.
Under the task force's "Support to the Barangay Development Program," some 822 villages cleared of insurgency from 2016 to 2019 will receive P20 million worth of projects.
This will include a concrete farm-to market road worth P12 million; a school building with 4 classrooms worth P3 million; water and sanitation systems worth P2 million; a national greening or forest protection program worth P1.5 million; and a a health station worth P1.5 million, Esperon said.
"Sobra bang bigyan ng P20 million [worth of] projects ang barangay?" he said, adding the amount was determined by the local government units, police and military.
The security official said his agency originally proposed a P32-billion funding for the program because there were also 609 more villages cleared of insurgency in 2020.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan was put on hold, and his department will focus first on the 822 barangays, he said.
For Esperon, these social and economic interventions will dissuade residents from joining the insurgency.
"Hangga't may kahirapan d'yan, hangga't may social problem, hangga't may hinaing ang mga tao na hindi malulunasan ay mas madali silang makuha ng NPA na ma-recruit . . . Ang CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army) ay nabubuhay sa pagsasabi na kulang tayo sa serbisyo," he said.
Communist insurgency, Esperon added, remains a threat in the Philippines.
"Mahigit 50 years na ang Communist Party of the Philippines, nandiyan pa rin sila. Maliit na puwersa pero nakakabahala, nakakadistorbo diyan sa liblib na mga pook," he said.
Members of the House of Representatives' Makabayan bloc earlier alleged that the proposed budget for the anti-insurgency task force could be considered discretionary funds.