PNP, AFP chiefs defend NTF-ELCAC amid 2022 budget cut

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) – The newly installed heads of the national police and the military defended the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), amid a sharp reduction in its proposed budget for 2022.

Philippine National Police chief PGen. Dionardo Carlos maintained the NTF-ELCAC is an effective body, as proven by the record number of communist rebels who surrendered during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"The very reason they're hitting the funds is because it's working. The AFP, PNP, and other government agencies are working together to end this local communist armed conflict," Carlos told The Generals 2.0, a CNN Philippines special presentation hosted by chief correspondent and anchor Pia Hontiveros.

Carlos added that policemen and soldiers can now proceed to communities located in so-called "guerrilla fronts" that used to be the stronghold of communist rebels in far-flung areas.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Lt. Gen. Andres Centino said the funds for NTF-ELCAC are not primarily meant for security operations but to develop barangays in remote areas of the country.

"The AFP sent out teams to find out the problems within these affected areas," said Centino, adding that they need to allocate ₱20 million per barangay to address the root causes of the insurgency.

The AFP chief of staff said the funds are used to construct farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, daycare centers, and school buildings in the countryside.

Centino reported that the New People’s Army now only has 43 active guerrilla fronts, with 12 of them ready to be dismantled.

"We are intent in addressing insurgency within the term of the President. We believe that with all the agencies working together in NTF-ELCAC, this mandate of ending insurgency once and for all can be done," he said.

NTF-ELCAC's proposed budget for next year is down to ₱4 billion under the latest version of the spending bill, from the ₱28 billion proposed funding by the executive department.

Senators insisted on cutting NTF-ELCAC's budget to provide more funds for the allowances and benefits of healthcare workers. 

Senate finance committee chairman Sonny Angara said during one of the 2022 budget plenary debates that only 26 out of the task force's 2,318 projects this year have been completed. 

Some members of NTF-ELCAC were also criticized for red-tagging certain personalities critical of the Duterte administration.