DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The National Democratic Front of the Philippines said the possible reforms that will benefit millions of farmers is now hanging on the edge with the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte to discontinue the peace negotiations.
Juliet de Lima, chairperson of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) said the peace negotiations between the government reached “unprecedented advances.”
“Just four days before President Duterte cancelled the talks anew, the bilateral teams of the NDFP and the government of the Republic of the Philippines initialed draft documents reflecting substantial agreements on agrarian reform and rural development, and on national industrialization and economic development,” she said.
The initial signing, she said, came after a series of bilateral technical meetings of the NDFP and GRP reciprocal working committees on SER held on October 26 to October 27, November 9 to November 11 and on November 16 to November 17.
What could have resulted if the talks were pushed?
De Lima said farmers could have enjoyed free distribution of lands, and those who have not yet been awarded of lands in contested areas could have been “installed immediately.”
She added that the scope and coverage of agrarian reform will be expanded to cover plantations and large-scale commercial farms covered by leasehold, joint venture, and non-land transfer schemes among others.
“There are also measures to prohibit and eliminate exploitative lending and trading practices,” she said.
The parties also agreed on the need for national industrialization and to plan in developing the country’s industrial capacity by protecting and supporting domestic industrialists and small enterprises.
“Measures will be taken to ensure that foreign investments cease being one-sided and contribute to developing the national economy,” said De Lima, adding that the importance of nationalizing public utilities was “affirmed by both sides.”
De Lima said during the last discussion of the RWCs on SER, both sides were “optimistic” to complete the CASER by January 2018.
A day ago, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza announced the cancellation of all their planned meetings with the communist negotiators following Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks.
Dureza said the cancellation of talks was brought by “recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels.
“This is an unfortunate development in our work for peace. Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them,” Dureza said.
He added that unlike President Duterte who “has taken unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace,” the communists have “not shown reciprocity.”
“There will be no peace negotiations anymore with the CPP/NPA/NDF until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident,” he added.
President Duterte’s statement in a press conference in here on Saturday, November 18 classifying the NPA as a terrorist group is not new.
The President also tagged the NPAs as terrorist after three soldiers were killed by the NPAs in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on February 2, just days after the government negotiators and its counterpart from the NDFP concluded the successful third round of talks in Rome, Italy.
But even then, the two parties engage in formal talks, including backchannel negotiations.