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The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading the PHP5.024 trillion national budget for 2022, including the PHP10.8 billion for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC),  according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

The NTF-ELCAC budget for its grass-roots campaign to address the decades-old communist insurgency was the last item tackled on the floor before the senators approved the 2022 General Appropriations Bill via 22-0 vote.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa urged the body to reconsider its earlier decision to reduce the NTF-ELCAC’s budget to just PHP4 billion from the original proposal of PHP24 billion.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said the NTF-ELCAC budget was increased to PHP10 billion, adding further adjustments may be made during the bicameral meeting with the House of Representatives.

“Maybe even in the bicam we can even try to go higher ang mahirap dito maghanap ng pondo ng source (the challenge is where to source the fund),” Angara said.

“I have been on record as saying believe the program should be given a chance, I believe the battle for the hearts and minds of our people living in former insurgent areas is very important,” Angara said.

Angara made the comment in response to dela Rosa’s plea to reconsider the NTF-ELCAC’s original proposed budget.

“I appeal to the hearts of my colleagues to give more consideration in order to end this decades-long insurgency,” dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief, said budgetary support, the country’s insurgency problem might resurrect.

“Walang ibang makikinabang sa desisyon nating ito kundi ang mga Communist terrorist group to the detriment of our kababayans na higit na nangangailangang maramdaman ang ating gobyerno (No one will benefit in our decision but the communist terrorist group to the detriment of our countrymen who are longing to feel the presence of the government),” he said.

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