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P19-B anti-insurgency fund for 2021 justifiable, says Lacson

The proposed P19-billion budget of an anti-insurgency task force in 2021 is justifiable, Senate committee on national defense chairperson Panfilo Lacson said on Wednesday.

"Sa NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) na pondo, something like P19 billion, hindi ito mapupunta sa military. Ang pondong ito is for development programs consisting of farm-to-market roads, livelihood. Ito 'yung confidence-building," Lacson said in an online interview.

The senator explained that the problem on insurgency will keep coming back in cleared barangays if the military would leave without ensuring that the basic needs of the community are being met.

"Mas kailangan ang hold and develop phase, 'di lang natatapos sa military operations. Kailangan humihingi ng pondo ang security sector para ma-hold and develop ang na-clear na nilang barangays... We will be able to justify and argue yung need," he said.

Moreover, he pointed out that the budget request is pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to the security sector to end the half-century-old problem of insurgency in the country.

A total of P19.13-billion was earmarked for the NTF-ELCAC for fiscal year 2021. A huge chunk of it or the P16.4 billion was proposed to support the barangay development program.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon previously warned that the multi-billion anti-insurgency fund may be abused to advance some political interest in the upcoming 2022 elections.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año assuaged such fears by pointing out that the development programs will only cover 822 cleared barangays out of the total 42,000 barangays in the country.

The Senate plenary debates regarding the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 is expected to start on November 10.—LDF, GMA News