PRESIDENT Duterte has sounded the idea of resuming the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Yes, going back once again to the negotiating table would be a welcome move. It is hoped that we can all support the resumption of the peace talks and that both sides would work on this double time. After all, the government and the NDFP have been in negotiation for decades and there are already draft agreements. Surely, both sides can come up with agreements that are acceptable to everyone and beneficial to the Filipino people.
One of the important agreements to be finalized is the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which is considered the heart and soul of the peace talks. The NDFP’s proposed CASER contains provisions on various socio-economic concerns — agrarian reform and rural development; national industrialization and economic development; environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation; rights of the working people; promoting patriotic, progressive and pro-people culture; recognition of ancestral lands and territories of national minorities; and ensuring economic sovereignty for national development through foreign economic and trade relations, financial, monetary and fiscal policies, and social and economic planning.
In truth, many of the NDFP’s proposals can already be addressed through existing laws and government programs. On agrarian reform and rural development, we have the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act, which requires all banking institutions to set aside 25 percent of their total loanable funds to agriculture and fisheries credit; the Sugarcane Industry Development Act; An Act Amending the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, to prevent illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing; Free Irrigation Services Act; and Barangay Livelihood and Skills Training Act.
For national industrialization and economic development, there are already existing laws such as the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises; the Green Jobs Act; Amended Public Employment Service Office Act; Barangay Kabuhayan Act; and Microfinance NGOs Act to support MSMEs and spur development in the countryside.
For livelihood opportunities for indigent Filipinos and those who need temporary assistance due to unemployment or retrenchment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has Sustainable Livelihood Program; the Department of Labor and Employment has the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program and Government Internship Program; while the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority has the Training for Work Scholarship Program, Special Training for Employment Program, and community-based and livelihood programs under the Brgy. Livelihood and Skills Training Act.
Meanwhile, to ensure economic sovereignty for national development, aside from the government’s solid macroeconomic policies that have been contributing to higher growth rate and influx of investments in the country both from local and foreign investors, several treaties have been ratified to further boost the Philippines’ trade relations with other countries.
We want to achieve genuine and lasting peace. Let us support the resumption of the peace talks. This is the better alternative to a long and protracted war.