Koronadal City, South Cotabato – “They want to defund so we have to defend.” This was the gist of the message of NTF-ELCAC Vice-Chairperson and National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., about the Barangay Development Program (BDP) and the move of some Senators to defund the NTF-ELCAC, when he graced the 17th JRTF-ELCAC XII meeting on 29 April 2021, via videoconference. The monthly meeting was presided by Secretary Isidro S. Lapeña, Chairperson of JRTF-ELCAC XII, who is also the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for SOCCSKSARGEN and Director-General of the Technical Education and Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).
Sec. Esperon, also designated National Security Adviser, announced that the funding for the BDP programs and projects (PAPs) being implemented in some barangays in the country, including barangays in Region XII has been released. He added that Cotabato Gov. Nancy A. Catamco has already committed the counterpart funds in support of BDP implementation. He expects other governors and mayors to similarly express their support to the noble endeavor of bringing peace and development to the far-flung communities.
Moreover, Secretary Esperon stressed that funds for BDP PAPs are pooled from the funds lodged in the budgets of national government agencies (NGAs) and the local government units (LGUs) concerned and not coming from the NTF-ELCAC regular funds. This is to allay some notions that BDP Funds are subsidized by the NTF budget. He lamented that the NTF is operating on a meager annual budget of less than PhP40 Million that was earmarked for maintenance of its Directorates, coordination activities, and its other regular administrative functions.
Sec. Esperon likewise announced that the 78 JRTF-ELCAC XII-endorsed barangays were included in the list of priority barangays the NTF-ELCAC Secretariat submitted to DBM for consideration in the BDP funding. He informed the body that for FY 2022, NTF-ELCAC has endorsed to DBM a proposed budget of PhP19.9Billion for the implementation of proposed programs and projects (PAPs) under BDP nationwide. For FY 2021, DBM has approved PhP16.44 Billion for the BDP implementation.
Sec. Esperon also shared that PhP400 Million was allocated for the livelihood projects of the Department of Agriculture; Php300 Million for the welfare programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); Php1.1 Billion for the police supervision of ELCAC-beneficiary barangays under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). He assured the proponents of the BDP that the budget will be downloaded to their barangays as soon as DBM receives the complete documents with the requirements. He also lauded the efforts of TESDA XII in fully energizing Sitio Blit, Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato by providing solar-powered installations to residents.
Meanwhile, during this 17th Meeting, JRTF-ELCAC XII passed important resolutions which are aimed at bringing government services closer to the people. Among these are:
- Implementation of Farm-to-Market Road and Potable Water System Projects for Sitio Blit, Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato;
- Requesting the concerned LGUs and National Government Agencies to include in their Investment Program fund support for proposed road projects along the boundaries of Sarangani-Davao Occidental and Sultan Kudarat (Columbio)-Cotabato (Tulunan-Makilala)-South Cotabato (Tampakan); and,
- Supporting the establishment of a DFA Consular Office in Kidapawan City and endorsing it to the Office of the President and the DBM for approval and funding support.
The JRTF-ELCAC XII likewise supported Regional Development Council (RDC) XI Resolution No. 21, series of 2021: Urging the NTF-ELCAC, DILG, DBM, and the NEDA to Adopt a Harmonized Set of Guidelines for the Monitoring of the Barangay Development Program (BDP) Projects. (Romeo C. Nebrija, NEDA XII-PFPD)