By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The Department of Public Works and Highways in the Cordillera said that they were not part of the planning for road projects that the Regional Task to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) are pushing.
“We are not part of the identification and planning of these projects, it is being forced on us,” DPWH Regional Director Tiburcio Canlas told the media during the Kapihan today, December 9.
According to him, they would “rather not implement these projects” because of the difficulty of its implementation. The DPWH director also noted that the projects are within areas where the New People’s Army operates and are in the middle of the mountains.
He recommended that local government units should instead take on the proposal being more familiar with their area.
The RTF-ELCAC identified 49 barangays in the Cordillera as “red areas” or NPA guerilla zones during the November 29 joint Regional Peace and Order Council and Regional Development Council meeting.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said during the meeting that all agencies have to work together to end the insurgency. He ordered the implementation of focused programs for the identified barangays to meet the objective of the task force. The DA secretary is the assigned member of the cabinet to oversee the regional development and security program of the TF-ELCAC.
The secretary reiterated that poverty and bad governance remain to be the significant reasons why many embrace the communist ideology. He stressed that the 49 barangays are among the most neglected areas in terms of social services and government programs.
Fund realignment to counter reds
Dar challenged local government units to look into their budgets for possible budget realignment to fund projects in the barangays. The Armed Forces of the Philippines identified the villages as priorities for their counter-insurgency operation.
According to him, since they consider the villages as the poorest, local officials should have prioritized the areas during their planning and budget allocation.
“Kahit tapos na ang kanilang budget, sila ang mga most neglected barangays in the region, so they should be included in the programs (Even if they are done with their budget, they must include the areas in their programs being the most neglected barangays in the region),” Dar said.
In the same meeting, local chief executives told Dar that they have already passed their 2020 budgets. According to them, the allotment did not include the “convergence projects” that include road and water systems being pushed by the TF ELCAC.
Abra Governor Jocelyn Bernos said they need assurance from the national government that it will fund local programs for the barangays.
“If we approve projects worth more than 10million, can we be assured by all line agencies that they can fund some of these programs?” she asked.
Dar said DA’s Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP) is about to end. He informed the officials that they are looking at using the remaining budget to fund projects in the 49 barangays. He added that for 2021, DA would ensure special funds for focused programs in the 61 affected barangays.
Major Gen Pablo Lorenzo, commander of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, explained the rise of NPA-influenced villages from 47 to 61. He said their earlier list did not include those in Abra and adjacent communities in Ilocos Sur, which are under the 7th Infantry Division.
“The 47 is based on our existing records, ito yung may organs of political power ang CPP-NPA-NDF, organisadong masa kumbaga (These are the areas where organs of political power of the CPP-NPA-NDF exists, they are organized masses),” he said.
He admitted that the target barangays are the “guerilla base” where the communist rebels established their “shadow governments.” According to him, adjacent to the guerilla base is the guerilla zone; these are less affected barangays and then the expansion areas or villages nearby to the guerilla zone.
“They have their own barangay captain, barangay police or the militia and armed rebels are going around in the area,” Lorenzo added.# nordis.net