Antique governor and current senatorial candidate Loren Legarda called for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The former three-time senator said just and lasting peace is important as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legarda added that ending poverty and pursuing socio-economic programs will benefit Filipinos and help the Philippines realize national recovery and development.
Legarda in a statement on Thursday said that the prospective Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) that is being discussed before formal negotiations stopped in 2017 contains “concrete and doable steps towards liberating the Filipino people from poverty, exploitation, and underdevelopment.”
The GRP Negotiating Panel has submitted its own draft to its counterpart which the late NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said was “surprisingly similar in many respects” to their own.
Both parties have agreed to use the NDFP version as the working draft and have already agreed to free land distribution during the third round of formal negotiations in Rome, Italy in January 2017.
GRP President Rodrigo Duterte has declared an end to the peace negotiations in June 2017, however.
Optomistic for talks resumption
Legarda said she is optimistic that both parties will hear her call.
“As an official who has maintained good working relations with the NDFP over the years, I have seen the sincerity of all sides to pursue a common objective and have witnessed their intense desire for peace and social justice. Resuming the peace talks and continuing the discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), the very heart and soul of the peace negotiations, will help us find a common ground to help achieve our goal,” she added.
Legarda explained that NDFP’s proposed CASER contains provisions on various socio-economic concerns such as agrarian reform and rural development, national industrialization and economic development as well as environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation.
The NDFP’s draft also contains proposals on the 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, she added.
Legarda said that, as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, she ensured that the national budget supported socio-economic reform agenda and authored laws on environmental protection that are part of the proposed CASER.
She also mentioned that she helped facilitate the safe releases of prisoners of war by the New People’s Army, including General Victor Obillo, Captain Eduardo Montealto, Sergeant Alpio Lozada, Major Roberto Bernal, and Army Major Noel Buan.
“We have the same goal of addressing issues affecting Filipinos such as poverty, landlessness, lack of employment and livelihood opportunities, underemployment, lack of access to housing services, affordable health care, education and other social services, corruption, environmental degradation, among many others,” the senatorial aspirant pointed out.
“We may have different views on how to pursue national development, but I believe we can find a common ground. Stalling the negotiations can only lead to delayed pandemic recovery and continued suffering for millions of Filipinos who were greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Legarda said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)