Some House members 'open' to calls to realign anti-insurgency fund for typhoon victims

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 05 2020 04:50 PM

An aerial view shows destroyed buildings with ripped off roofs after Super Typhoon Rolly hit the town of Tabaco, Albay on Sunday. Charism Sayat, AFP


MANILA - Some members of the House of Representatives on Thursday said they were open to the Senate minority bloc's push to realign a portion of the P19-billion anti-insurgency fund to boost the budget for typhoon victims.

Under the proposed 2021 budget, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will receive about P19 billion to provide livelihood projects in rural communities to discourage villagers from joining the communist insurgency.

"There should be some space for realigning some non-urgent projects towards Albay, Catanduanes and other hard-hit areas," House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda said in a statement.

While he supports the administration's non-military way of addressing the insurgency problem, Salceda said that "some of the countryside development projects under the task force can mitigate" the damage caused by Supertyphoon Rolly.

"I support these [NTF-ELCAC] programs, and I am open to conversations on adjusting them," said the Bicolano lawmaker, whose home province Albay was among the provinces hit by Rolly, this year's strongest typhoon.

Rolly left some P5.8 billion in infrastructure damage in the Bicol region alone, according to initial estimates from the Department of Public Works and Highways.

ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro said at least a third of the NTF-ELCAC's proposed 2021 budget should be reallocated to "basic services."

"If we rechannel just half or one-third of the P19.1 billion for NTF-ELCAC, P6.3 billion to P9.5 billion will go a long way in the production of self-learning modules," Castro said.

"Instead of lies, fake news, and relentless red-tagging, and policies and activities that terrorize the people into silence, the people's taxes will be spent for the dire needs of teachers and students in the blended mode of learning," she said.

The NTF-ELCAC earlier tagged Castro's ACT Teachers Party-list as one of the groups serving as front for the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing the New Peoples' Army.

Castro and 5 other party-list representatives skipped a Senate hearing on red tagging where officials of the task force accused them of being members of the communist movement.

Castro and other members of the House Makabayan bloc said the Senate should not be giving the military a platform to link activists and government critics to the communist movement.

The Minority bloc senators are expected to push for the realignment of the anti-insurgency panels' fund next week when the Senate begins tackling the 2021 budget in plenary.

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- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News