House wants to restore NTF-ELCAC budget in bicam

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2022 06:20 PM

MANILA — The House of Representatives wants to restore the funding of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in the 2023 national budget that is pending before the bicameral conference committee.

The NTF-ELCAC’s budget was slashed by the Senate and House of Representatives in their respective versions of next year’s spending plan.

In a statement, Appropriations committee chair Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co said the House panel would work with its Senate counterpart to restore the agency’s reduced budget upon the instructions of House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Deputy Senior Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos. 

“Congress recognizes the important role the NTF-ELCAC plays to help end the country’s decades-long insurgency. Thus, we will convince our Senate counterparts in the bicameral conference committee to restore the agency’s proposed budget,” Co said in the statement.

“After all, this is one of the key priorities of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. which was clearly outlined in the National Expenditure Program the administration sent to Congress,” he continued. 

At the same time, Co called on the NTF-ELCAC to fast-track its projects and to look into collaborating with agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways which are better equipped to handle implementation. 

Co wants the NTF-ELCAC to work harder to fully utilize the budget allocated by Congress as he stressed that the funds would be distributed to various agencies for administrative and operational expenses in implementing the task force's Barangay Development Program. 

In October, Appropriations Senior Vice Chair Stella Quimbo said the House realigned some P5 billion from the NTF-ELCAC’s budget for 2023. It originally had at least P10 billion in the original submission of the executive.

The NTF-ELCAC previously drew flak for accusing activists, universities, journalists, health workers and government critics of working with communist rebels.