Press Release
December 8, 2007


The minority bloc in the Senate has waived its previous objection to the P3 billion Kilos Asenso and P1 billion Kalayaan sa Barangay programs - both pet projects of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to alleviate poverty in the countryside - provided the administration will put adequate safeguards to ensure that funds are expended for the intended projects to directly benefit the targetted recipient communities.

Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) spelled out this stand after expressing satisfaction with the justification by Malacañang for the two major anti-poverty programs under the proposed 2008 national budget that is being defended by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, chairman of the finance committee, during plenary debates on the measure.

The Kilos Asenso program aims to implement vital projects in rural communities such as farm-to-market roads, small bridges, day care centers, potable water supply system, agro-forestry and livelihood enterprises designed to uplift their socio-economic conditions.

The projects will be supported by the P3 billion fund from the national government but an equal amount should be put up by the recipient local government units as counterpart.

Effectively, the Kilos Asenso will have a total of P6 billion funding - from both the national government and LGUs.

Pimentel said it cannot be denied that "these are good objectives."

On the other hand, the Kalayaan sa Barangay will be utilized for the rehabilitation and development of about 200 barangays all over the country that have been affected by the insurgency problem.

The recipient barangays which have been identified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Department of National Defense, will be entitled to funding assistance, ranging from P1 million to P5 million each, depending upon the extent of the effects of the internal conflict.

The projects covered by the Kalayaan sa Barangay program, such as school classrooms, water system and electrification will be implemented primarily by the AFP engineering brigade.

The program was conceived based on the principle that insurgency can be fought not only through military or armed means but also through development effort "in order to win the hearts and minds of the people."

Pimentel said "we do not question the need to apply persuasive mechanism to reduce, if not eradicate, the incidence of insurgency in the country."

"With regard to the Kalayaan sa Barangay program of the DND-AFP, we are supporting it. It is important that the people see our soldiers, especially in the conflict areas, not only involved in fighting the rebels but also in the development of the affected areas," he said.

"But we would like to know which are the recipient barangays in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao so that we can monitor and make sure that the P1 billion earmarked for the program will really benefit the intended barangays. That is our main concern."

When Malacañang first proposed the Kilos Asenso and Kalayaan sa Barangay programs under the 2006 national budget, the opposition legislators rejected them because no plausible explanation was given to allay their apprehensions that the funds may just be used to curry favors with local government officials in exchange for securing their support for the people's initiative for the adoption of a unicameral parliamentary system then being orchestrated by the administration.

The disagreement over these two lump appropriations between the Senate and the House of Representatives-Malacañang led to a deadlock in the bicameral conference negotiation on the 2006 budget. Consequently, the proposed budget was not approved and the old budget was reenacted into law.

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