Presidential contender Sen. Ping Lacson during a visit to Pag-asa Island in Kalayaan municipality on November 20, 2021.

Senator Ping Lacson expressed support to the efforts of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) to provide livelihood assistance to communities that have been cleared of insurgency, despite the P24 billion budget cut introduced by the Senate on the 2022 budget.

During his visit to Palawan on Saturday, Lacson said that they are coordinating with the military and barangay on addressing this need, even as he criticized the agency’s utilization of its funding.

“Kinukuha namin ang pulso ng military, mga barangay officials, at sa tingin naman namin ay malaki ang naitutulong para [mawala] ang communist terrorist group. Malaking tulong kasi we are talking about P20 million per barangay. Ang mga na-clear na barangay ay papasukan ng development. Kailangan talaga ang BDP (Barangay Development Program) at livelihood program,” Lacson said.

Lawmakers critical of NTF ELCAC are pushing for a P24 billion cut in the task force’s annual appropriation after noting its underspending in its current year budget by around P16 billion.

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According to Senate finance committee chair Sen. Sonny Angara, the NTF ELCAC proposed a P30.45 billion budget, where P28.1 billion will go to the Local Government Support Fund-Support to the Barangay Development Fund (LGSF-SBDP).

“May mga issues na kailangan i-address katulad sa ibang lugar, hindi naman dito sa Palawan, ay parang na-politicize at parang namimili ng bibigyan,” he said.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Sec. Isidro Lapeña also expressed concern over the reduction of budget

Being one of its 12 clusters, TESDA leads the task force’s Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment Cluster (PRLEC) that provides technical assistance, livelihood, and scholarships to the former rebels and indigenous communities for more than two years.

He said that reduction of the budget would limit the task force including its clusters to provide necessary assistance to the former rebels as their main beneficiary.

“Reducing the task force’s ability to continue its mission at this point in time will slow down the work of the government towards sustainable progress and peace and order. It will be our kababayans, especially those in the remote and far-flung areas, who will bear the impact of this decision,” he said.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.