BAGUIO CITY— Cabinet Officer for Regional Development Secretary (CORDS) for Cordillera and Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Friday called on local executives in the region to focus their development programs and social services on the 61 villages in the provinces, where members of the New People’s Army (NPA) still operate.
“I ask that the governor, mayors make the 61 their priority and place funds for their development,” Dar told members of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) during the joint Regional Development Council (RDC)- Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting.
There was also a briefing on the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTFELCAC) during the meeting with national line agency directors in the region, governors from Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and mayors of the Baguio and Tabuk cities.
Dar said while the budget for 2020 has been passed by Congress, governors, municipal mayors with the help of the congressmen can channel resources for the livelihood programs and projects in these NPA-infested 61 barangays in the region.
“Let us start realigning and identifying what is possible in our respective budgets so that we can start really enhancing the empowerment of 61 barangays,” Dar said.
Speaking for the Department of Agriculture, Dar said they will cover the 61 barangays in their projects for 2020.
“How I wish other agencies will also make it possible that the same can be done in complementing,” he said.
“The President [Rodrigo Duterte] has underscored the whole of nation approach for the neglected barangays. This is the time for such effort for this government to bring together as one, help empower the communities, barangays that we are focusing on,” Dar added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Cameron Odsey, DA-CAR regional director, said base on their inventory, a total of 23 of the 61 villages are covered by various projects under foreign and regular funding.
He said they are also coordinating with other agencies to explore what other programs can be implemented in these areas.
On the other hand, the Department of Public Works and Highways in the region said out of the 61 identified barangays, the agency has existing projects in seven villages in Abra, two in Ifugao, 13 in Kalinga, and two in the Mountain Province.
Out of the 27 municipalities in Abra, 15 have been identified as among the 61 villages in CAR which are affected by the insurgency.
Abra Gov. Jocelyn Bernos, chairman of the Cordillera RDC, said the provincial government has a peoples’ day program where they bring the various government services to the far-flung villages.
“We’ve been reaching out, we’ve been fighting insurgency even before the ELCAC was issued,” Bernos said as she committed to bringing the people’s day program to the 15 villages to get the residents’ concerns.
Bernos said the 15 villages are in Tubo, Lacub and Malibcong towns which are upland municipalities in Abra and have far-flung villages that can only be reached by hours of walking.
She said the NPA rebels target the said barangays because they cannot infiltrate the lowland areas.
Col. Jearie Boy Faminial, Commander of the 24th Infantry Battalion, said all 27 towns in Abra have declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)- NPA as persona non grata.
In Lagangilang town, five villages have also passed a resolution declaring the CPP-NPA as persona non grata.
“It’s a good development in terms of peace and order because the leaders who are used to the presence of the NPAs are now making a stand saying that they do not want them in the communities,” Bernos said.
She said while there are 15 identified villages, the declaration of persona non grata is proof that they do not want the terrorists.
She expressed confidence that Abra will be free from terrorists as long as the officials will continue to align their efforts with the national government to end insurgency in the country.
“Magta-trabaho kami to convince the community na may gobyernong tutulong sa kanila (We will work hard to convince the communities that they have a government that is willing to help them),” Bernos said. (PNA)