progress of discussions on social and economic reforms
JULIETA DE LIMA
November 23, 2017
– The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Reciprocal
Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) views
with grave concern Pres. Rodrigo Duterte's sudden turn-about and
unilateral cancellation anew of peace negotiations with the NDFP. It
is the third time in six months that Pres. Duterte has obstructed
the progress of the talks.
His latest scuttling of
the talks comes at a time when unprecedented advances have already
been achieved in forging agreements on urgently needed
socio-economic reforms to alleviate mass poverty and resolve the
roots of the armed conflict.
Just four days before
Pres. Duterte cancelled the talks anew, the bilateral teams of the
NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)
RWCs-SER initialed draft documents reflecting substantial agreements
on agrarian reform and rural development, and on national
industrialization and economic development. These were the result of
a series of bilateral technical meetings by the NDFP and GRP RWCs-SER
on October 26-27, November 9-11, and November 16-17.
The drafts include
potentially significant reforms to benefit millions of Filipinos.
These include the free distribution of land to tillers, farmers,
farmworkers, agricultural workers and fisherfolks. Agrarian reform
beneficiaries who have not yet been able to occupy the land awarded
to them will be installed immediately, including those in contested
lands and agricultural estates. The scope and coverage of agrarian
reform will be expanded to include plantations and large-scale
commercial farms covered by leasehold, joint venture, non-land
transfer schemes like stock distribution option, and other such
arrangements. There are also measures to prohibit and eliminate
exploitative lending and trading practices.
The NDFP and GRP also
agreed on the need for national industrialization and for planning
to develop Filipino industrial capacity. Measures will be taken to
ensure that foreign investments cease being one-sided and contribute
to developing the national economy. Domestic industrialists and
smaller enterprises will be protected and supported. The importance
of nationalizing public utilities was affirmed. Both sides also
agreed to identify key industries and priority industrial projects
to jump-start industrialization. The importance of unions and
workers' councils was also acknowledged.
Further measures of even
greater significance were set to be tackled. The GRP and NDFP RWCs-SER
were optimistic that they would be able to complete the
Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) for
signing by their respective negotiating panels and approval by their
principals by January 2018.
The NDFP RWC-SER regrets
the unilateral cancellation of talks on such vital social and
economic reforms which, if implemented, would have immediately
benefited tens of millions of oppressed and exploited Filipinos. The
NDFP at the same time recognizes that the people's continued daily
struggles on these issues are unabated and, if anything, are made
more urgent and will gain greater momentum. Pres. Duterte bears full
responsibility for the failure of the talks on social and economic
reforms because of his sudden turn-around and heightened hostility
to the revolutionary forces and the people.