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The P24-billion budget cut imposed by the Senate on the proposed budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is a severe blow to the government’s livelihood and technical assistance projects that used to be covered by the program.

This was the concern expressed by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) which leads the interventions under the NTF-ELCAC administration.

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.

NTF-ELCAC had sought a P30.45 billion general allocation budget where P28.1 billion of it will go to Local Government Support Fund – Support to the Barangay Development Fund (LGSF-SBDP).

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Lawmakers however wanted a P24 billion cut in its budget, noting its alleged weak absorption capacity.

“TESDA is deeply concerned with the lawmakers’ decision to reduce the task force’s budget,” TESDA secretary Isidro Lapeña said.

He also emphasized that through NTF ELCAC, the government was able to slowly diminish the presence of terrorist groups in the country.

Lapeña believed that a 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.

“The agency, together with its cluster members and partners in the private sector, has provided scholarship to thousands of individuals to equip them for jobs or livelihood. Most of our beneficiaries are former rebels and indigenous peoples,” Lapeña added.

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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.