Leftist Cabinet members: Continue peace talks for benefit of the poor

MANILA, Philippines – Leftist Cabinet members urged the government and the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) to push through with the peace talks, saying it would be in the best interest of the poor.

In a joint statement released on Tuesday, February 7, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) head Liza Maza said they "will continue to engage within the Cabinet and the rest of the administration towards the resumption of the talks and strengthening the civilian voice in the peace process."

"The current agenda on the table, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), is the most substantive agenda in the negotiations and is key to lasting peace and long-term poverty eradication," added the 3 heads of agencies belonging to the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster.

Among the key points that they emphasized was how both parties reached a common ground on the issue of land distribution. They said that during the 3rd round of talks in Rome, the government and the NDF "agreed in principle" to distribute lands to farmers and farm workers for free.

"Both parties also reached a decision to accelerate the negotiation process through simultaneous discussions of technical working committees of the remaining substantive agenda, as the discussion on the CASER commences," they added.

They also said both the government and the NDF "were looking forward" to pursuing the next round of talks where they will discuss agreements on land reform, rural development, national industrialization, economic growth, and access to social services.

"The foremost concern of both parties in the peace negotiations is the interest of the Filipino people to address the roots of poverty and achieve a just and lasting peace. It is unfortunate that the talks have now come to a standstill," they said.

"Let each side come to terms with the compelling reasons why we have to come to the negotiating table in the first place. For it is the welfare of the Filipinos, in their millions, that is at the core of the peace negotiations."

President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, February 4, announced that he is cancelling the peace talks with the communists, just a day after he lifted the military's ceasefire with the New People's Army (NPA).

The NPA was the first to cancel its ceasefire on February 1, citing the delayed release of political prisoners and the alleged abuses of the military as reasons. But the communist rebels maintained that peace talks should continue.

For Duterte, however, it now seems that there would be no peace in this generation. The President also ordered the arrest of the NDF consultants who were freed to participate in the peace talks. – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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