BOBON, NO. SAMAR – It used to be a playground of the communist New People’s Army where the rebels who were waging the five-decade war to overthrow the government can do anything on their will – terrorizing the residents, collecting money from the people, and demanding food from the poor folks whose subsistence depended on the meager yield from their farm lots.

For some time, residents of Barangay Calantiao, a far-flung village in Bobon, Northern Samar were ready to abandon their place and live elsewhere. With no health facility, no electricity, no potable water and living under threat, there was no reason to stay in the community.

On Monday, 15 August, residents of Barangay Calantiao woke up to see the realization of their dreams. Three completed infrastructure projects under the controversial Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) were inaugurated and turned over to the barangay officials and the local government unit of Bobon.

These projects are the Php 6-million barangay health station, a Php 6-million worth of a Level II Potable Water Supply System and a Php 1-million worth of rural electrification. Barangay Calantiao is also a recipient of a Php 5-million educational assistance to indigent individuals and families, and Php 2-million livelihood and technical programs.

The Barangay Health Station has facilities such as a reception area, waiting area, treatment and consultation room, health workers station, materials and housekeeping storage, sputum collection area, prenatal infant exam room, hand washing and kitchen area, waste bins and collection area, female and male toilets designed to be friendly to persons with disabilities, and a PWD ramp.

Nilda Sapatos, barangay captain of Calantiao, said it has been a long dream of the residents of the community to have these facilities.

Sapatos said before the project was implemented, residents of the barangay would travel to the town proper to be able to avail of basic health services. Others who could not afford the cost of transportation would either suffer with an untreated illness or make do with whatever form of treatment is available.

She said many residents have long planned to live elsewhere due to unavailability of electricity, which was becoming one of their primary needs in their livelihood and everyday living. She added that the absence of potable water was one of the reasons for the spread of diseases causing sickness and even resulting in deaths especially in infants, children and the elderly.

The SBDP is a flagship program of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), bringing progress to former conflict-prone communities. It became a center of controversy during budget deliberations with some lawmakers asking to defund it.

In 2021, Calantiao was among the six barangays in Northern Samar that received Php 20 million each from SBDP. This year, 200 barangays in Eastern Visayas received Php 4 million each from SBDP to support similar projects.

Bobon Mayor Rene Celespara said NTF-ELCAC did not only provide infrastructures and non-infrastructure projects but also brought peace, which is necessary in the development of remote communities.

Major General Edgardo De Leon, commander of the 8th Infantry Division, commended the efforts of the Community Support Program Team (CSPT) that led the implementation of the project. De Leon paid tribute to the CSP teams that offered sacrifices to sustain the gains of the government in bringing development to the remotest communities in Northern Samar. He mentioned Patrolman Rico Borja, who was killed in an ambush staged by the NPA on a CSP team in Las Navas town last April. By Elmer Recuerdo (EV Mail August 15-21, 2022 issue)