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Filipinos who lost homes, lands call for protection of indigenous rights at climate summit

by Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Helen Magata and Josefa Isabel Tauli traveled from one of the mountain ranges of the Philippines to the golden sands of Dubai. Their mission extends beyond raising awareness at the ongoing COP28; they carry a vital message calling for climate justice “by protecting indigenous peoples’ rights.”

As the two-week UN Climate Summit has reached its midway point, environmental activists like Magata and Tauli are intensifying their pleas for active participation in climate negotiations and, more specifically, equitable representation in the recently established loss and damage fund.

This fund, conceived to aid vulnerable communities in mitigating the costs of escalating climate-related disasters, marked a historic moment on November 30 with an initial commitment of more than $420 million led by the UAE. However, Magata and Tauli assert that the true challenge lies in ensuring that these financial resources are channelled directly to the communities most affected by climate change, particularly the indigenous groups, bypassing intermediary entities such as government units or large corporations.

“The realization of the fund is an achievement after years of assertion by climate-vulnerable communities,” Magata and Tauli said.

Helen Magata (L) and Josefa Isabel Tauli. Photo: Angel Tesorero

Helen Magata (L) and Josefa Isabel Tauli. Photo: Angel Tesorero

“Now, the bigger challenge is to ensure the financial resources for climate action are actually directed to support the communities that bear the brunt of climate change. We want to see the funds go directly to the indigenous communities and not through state or local government units or big corporations,” they added.

Magata is the coordinator for the climate and biodiversity program at Tebtebba Foundation based in the northern Philippines, while Tauli is a member of the youth advisory group on climate change to the UN Secretary-General.

‘We are made invisible and voiceless’

The women activists fear funding for climate adaptation and biodiversity conservation will go to other parties instead of them. “They (government and state authorities) decide on our behalf when in fact it has historically been our territory, and yet we are made invisible and voiceless,” they said.

Magata and Tauli added: “It must be noted that around 80 per cent of the remaining biodiversity in the world – from the rainforest in South America to the mountains, valleys and rivers in Asia – are protected by the indigenous people.

Indigenous peoples are the original settlers in a given territory and their history dates back to pre-colonial times. They have distinct social and cultural traditions that are tied to their ancestral lands. Their source of living is also connected to the natural resources and the land where they live.

“We are being made victims twice over – first, when climate change dissipates our natural resources; and second, when false development projects evict us from our lands,” they said, explaining: “We call them as false development projects because they don’t actually benefit us. For example, if a certain territory is declared a protected area for so-called carbon sequestration, the indigenous people living there will be disallowed to till the soil for food and agriculture.

“Some renewable power projects – like the building of dams – displace us from our ancestral lands. Homes and farmlands are flooded. We are dispossessed and cut from our traditional food sources,” they added.

Magata and Tauli also raised the issue of environmental activists being criminalised and, worse, killed for their actions. “In the Philippines, for instance, more than 100 climate activists have been killed in the past ten years for speaking up,” they added.

Free, prior and informed consent

The activists are demanding climate solutions based on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), noted Mrinal Kanti Tripura from the Maleya Foundation, an indigenous peoples’ organisation working on environment, climate change, human rights and development in Bangladesh.

The FPIC is a framework mandated by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It aligns with their universal right to self-determination “to provide or withhold/ withdraw consent, at any point, regarding projects impacting their territories.”

Tripura said climate change adaptation should strike a balance between curbing emissions, protecting nature and indigenous communities, and boosting food security. He added climate finance should not drive more debt for developing countries in the name of funding development projects.

“All processes must have free, prior and informed consent before dealing with projects in the communities,” Tripura underscored, adding: “Fund must go directly to indigenous peoples, and we should have actual representation in the climate fund.” #

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This report is original to the Khaleej Times where the author is a senior deputy editor.

Danah Marie Marcellana’s walk to freedom and justice  

By Nuel M. Bacarra

A daughter of a human rights martyr is now a human rights defender herself two months after being released from jail. She is Danah Marie Marcellana, daughter of the martyred Eden and veteran peasant leader Orly.

Like many political prisoners who have regained freedom, Dana is now a member of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainess Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA). She was released on bail last October 6 this year after more than two years in jail on trumped up charges. At 1 AM on June 25, 2021, elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military swooped down on Marcellana’s home in Barangay San Gabriel, San Pablo, Laguna and arrested her and her husband Christian Relao without presenting any warrant. The two were accused of the standard kidnapping, murder, rebellion and illegal possession of firearms charges against activists. Realo is still in jail however.

Danah’s story is not a simple one. She was only in her day care years when her mother, then secretary general KARAPATAN-Southern Tagalog was killed with peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy, then chairperson of peasant group Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK). Eden and Eddie led an 11-person fact finding mission to look into a report of a human rights violation case in Gloria town in Mindoro, Occidental. After the mission, they were waylaid by soldiers along the road and took Gumanoy and Marcellana and three others separately on April 21. The next day, the bodies of Gumanoy and Marcellana were found in a ditch in Bansud, Mindoro Oriental. General Jovito Palparan was then the commanding officer of the 204th Brigade of the Philippine Army in Mindoro.

Danah’s family is from Quezon that boasts of an active peasant movement that, in turn, is fueled by landlessness and the cruelty of the landlords. Her father Orly is a fierce farmer leader of Tanggol Magsasaka-Timog Katagalugan. Because of her mother’s assassination and the incessant harassments to their family, Danah grew up militant, herself becoming a peasant organizer of KASAMA-TK when arrested.

A young wife and mother at the time of their arrest, Danah experienced depression and other mental anguish in jail. These were compounded by the deplorable situation in prison facilities and the violent and unjust manner of their arrest. When a warrant was finally shown her in prison, she found out that she was charged with alleged crimes that happened in 2008 when she was only 12 years old.

Danah speaking at a rally. (Supplied photo)

At a protest rally at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Padre Faura last December 5, Danah narrated how angry she was at the time. “After twenty years of seeking justice for the death of my mother here at DOJ, the government now focused its attacks on me,” she said.

Like fellow political prisoners Amanda Echanis and Reina Mae Nasino who both had their child in prison, Danah was still nursing her one year old baby when she was arrested. She also narrated that that National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) personnel can barge into PNP lock up cells to intimidate, threat with death of arbitrarily or include anybody in its list of fake surrenderees.

In her two years in jail, she learned that elderly and sickly women political prisoners are subjected to harsh treatment, as in the case of Virginia Villamor, 67, who was forced to lay prostrate by the police resulting to a crack in her knees and pelvic bones. There were others, like Cleofe Lagtapon who at 68 is now in the Correctional Institute for Women for alleged illegal possession of firearms; Evangeline Rapanot, 71, from Cagayan from who suffers multiple health problems; and Fe Serrano, 65, from Southern Tagalog who is facing more than 35 different criminal cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Dana said that elderly women political prisoners are particularly vulnerable to the inhumane treatment in inmates, the over-congestion of jails, the inadequate prison food, woeful state of medical services and the slow-paced trial of trumped-up charges against them.

As it had been when she decided to become a peasant organizer like her father, it was as easy for Danah to agree to join SELDA and become a human rights defender like her late mother. “These injustices that I, my family and other political prisoners  have suffered are enough reasons to continue fighting,” she said.

“There are no high enough walls, no cyclone wires, no isolation that women political prisoners cannot handle in our quest for freedom,” she added. #

Bai Bibyaon, warrior chieftain of the Lumad, dies

Celebrated woman Lumad chieftain Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay has died, grassroots indigenous women’s organization Sabokahan IP Women announced Wednesday, December 6.

Bigkay died surrounded by loved ones last November 20, the group said. The cause of her death was not given. She is believed to be about 90 years old at the time of her death.

In accordance with the leader’s wishes, she was buried in an undisclosed location soon after her death, Sabokahan IP Women said.

Born in Natulinan, Talaingod, Davao del Norte, Bigkay first gained prominence in the 1980s when she led a pangayaw, a traditional war, against the company Alcantara & Sons they accused of excessive logging operations in the ancestral domain of the Matigsalug-Manobo tribe.

As the first ever woman chieftain of the tribe, Bigkay was credited for uniting, empowering, and rallying the Lumad across villages to stand up to the loggers.

“This victory against large-scale logging protected old-growth forest, which is the home of Lumad and whose biodiversity is vital in mitigating climate change [impacted] not only the Philippines but across Asia,” Sabokahan IP Women said in its announcement and tribute.

After the fall of the Ferdinand Marcos Sr. dictatorship in 1986, Bigkay became part of the Mindanao Peoples Federation (LMPF) Assembly to resist threats of ethnocide against indigenous peoples.

It was the assembly that resolved to use the collective term “Lumad” to claim political power and unifying identity to the 18 ethno-linguistic tribes of Mindanao.

It was not only in the defense of the Lumad and their ancestral domain however that Bigkay gained prominence throughout the years.

Education and child rights advocate

Bigkay was instrumental in the establishment of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon council that built more that 50 Salugpungan Lumad schools and learning centers in Pantaron and other indigenous communities  throughout the island, Sabokahan IP Women said.

A personal advocacy to the Bibyaon (chieftain) was the elimination of the traditional “buya,” child marriage and arranged marriage, and urged her fellow Lumad to send their children to school instead.

Bigkay understood that Lumad families often marry off their daughters in response to conditions of extreme poverty and hunger and the schools she helped establish was aimed at transforming the role of girls in society.

“Rather than being confined to domestic roles and marriage, they could now become community health workers, teach scientific sustainable farming methods to improve the community’s food security, and school teachers,” the group said.

Bigkay Bai was later involved in the creation of national indigenous peoples’ organizations KATRIBU Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas and SANDUGO Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination.

In 2003, she was the founding chairperson of Sabokahan To Mo Lumad Kamalitanan or “Sabokahan Unity of Lumad Women.”

Fighting ‘til the end

Even in her advancing years, Bigkay resisted further exploitation and militarization of their ancestral demands, leading the Lumad in their evacuation to Davao City and Luzon and in their national and international campaigns for justice.

“As a prominent figure in the fight for women, indigenous and environmental rights, Bai posed a haunting threat to the multinational companies and complicit politicians who actively attempt to plunder Mindanao’s estimated $1 trillion worth of natural resources. This made her a prime target for red-tagging, threat, and surveillance especially under following the Duterte administration’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, passage of the Anti Terror Law, and creation of the National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC),” Sabokahan IP Women said.

Bigkay has never returned to Mindanao since 2018 due to threats of arrest and detention as the military did with her relatives who were forced to sign affidavits calling for her “immediate rescue.”

For her lifelong struggle for her people, Bigkay was celebrated as the Most Distinguished Awardee of the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan or “Environmental Heroes Award” in 1984 and again in 2018.

Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay (4th from left) receving the Gawad Tandang Sora from the University of the Philippines. (R. Villanueva/Kodao)

In 2017, she received the Gawad Tandang Sora Award from the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Social Work and Community Development.

READ: Woman warrior of Talaingod is 2017 Gawad Tandang Sora awardee

In 2019, she received the Ulirang Nakatatanda Award by the Coalition of Services of the Elderly as well as the Ginetta Sagan Award by Amnesty International USA in 2022.

“When I leave here, I will become a guiding light for you all. Don’t give up, but continue the struggle,” Bigkay uttered in her final days, Sabokahan IP Women said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

VP Sara rebukes BBM’s peace plan, fuels speculation of rift with Marcos

Vice President Sara Duterte publicly disagreed with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the possible resumption of formal negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), in turn earning criticisms and disagreements from members of both houses of Congress.

In probably her first public rebuke of her political ally, Duterte told Marcos to review plans to revive negotiations with Communist revolutionaries, calling the November 23 Joint Statement between Manila government emissaries and the NDFP “an agreement with the devil.”

“Mr. President, we can negotiate for peace and reconciliation and pursue meaningful development efforts in the Philippines without capitulating to the enemies,” Duterte said.

“They will use these peace negotiations to betray government and deceive the public,” she added.

Duterte earned swift condemnation from House of Representatives (HOR) Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers’ Party Representative France Castro who said the vice president’s statement is anti-peace and advocating for war as well as intolerant of different beliefs.

“The remarks made by Vice President Sara Duterte are detrimental to the pursuit of genuine peace negotiations. By posturing as if she is the president of the country and questioning the first steps to a peace negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the (NDFP), she is undermining the efforts to address the roots of the armed conflict in the Philippines,” Castro said.

Castro said it is alarming that the vice president’s statements reflect a lack of understanding of the complexities of the peace process and a disregard for the aspirations for just and lasting peace.

“Instead of promoting war, we call on the Vice President and those she represents to support efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict in the country,” Castro added.

Breaking up?

Allies of Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez at the HOR likewise commended “initiatives for peace and national unity,” by the Marcos government, contradicting the vice president’s statements.

In a statement, the so-called Political Party Leaders in the HOR described the development as an “historic move” in the country’s journey towards lasting peace and sustainable development.

At the Senate, Sen. JV Ejercito urged Duterte to talk directly to the President regarding her opinion about the planned resumption of peace negotiations to prevent further speculations of a rift between the allies.

“Better if [Duterte] talked to [Marcos] directly to quash speculations that, politically, they are headed to go in their separate ways,” Ejercito told ABS-CBN Monday night.

Duterte earlier criticized erstwhile allies in Congress who voted to reject her request of at least P125 million pesos in confidential and intelligence funds for her office and the Department of Education that she also heads.

She also downplayed the exodus of members of her political party Hugpong ng Pagbabago to Romualdez’s  Laban-CMD.

Duterte and Romualdez are seen to be rivals in the 2028 presidential race.

Romualdez is a cousin of Marcos.

Sought for comment, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III also welcomed Marcos’ intention to talk peace again with the NDFP.

“Between Filipinos, we should always be open to dialogue,” Pimentel added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

UAE: Climate activists in tears as they stage protest, call for ceasefire in Gaza

COP28: Protestors at UN-controlled Blue Zone read out names of Palestinians who died in Israeli bombing

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Their call was loud and clear: Ceasefire now! But they were also not able to help but sob and quiver as, one by one, the names of those who tragically died in Gaza were called in a poignant protest calling for justice and respect for humanity.

Wearing keffiyehs and waving watermelon banners, more than 200 environmental activists staged an organised demonstration at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai on Sunday, calling for an ‘unconditional and immediate ceasefire in Gaza’ as the number of deaths continues to rise following the expiration of a temporary truce.

The protest held inside the UN-controlled Blue Zone commenced by calling the names of those who died in Gaza due to Israeli bombing. “The long list is still being written as we hold this protest,” the emcee, Gina Cortes, a climate activist from Colombia and member of COP28 Coalition, said while protesters wept.

A young female environmentalist started calling out the names. Her voice immediately quivered as she uttered the name of a six-year-old victim, followed by more names of infants and toddlers who tragically lost their lives. Despite her evident emotional strain, she persevered, systematically naming more victims — from months-old babies to the elderly.

Listen to the names of some victims in the video above by Angel Tesorero.

Climate justice and human rights

Bringing global attention to one of the world’s longstanding conflicts in the Middle East has added another dimension to the UN Climate Summit. There is no climate justice without human rights, the protesters strongly chanted.

Their call was loud and clear: Ceasefire now! But they were also not able to help but sob and quiver as, one by one, the names of those who tragically died in Gaza were called in a poignant protest calling for justice and respect for humanity.

Wearing keffiyehs and waving watermelon banners, more than 200 environmental activists staged an organised demonstration at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai on Sunday, calling for an ‘unconditional and immediate ceasefire in Gaza’ as the number of deaths continues to rise following the expiration of a temporary truce.

The protest held inside the UN-controlled Blue Zone commenced by calling the names of those who died in Gaza due to Israeli bombing. “The long list is still being written as we hold this protest,” the emcee, Gina Cortes, a climate activist from Colombia and member of COP28 Coalition, said while protesters wept.

A young female environmentalist started calling out the names. Her voice immediately quivered as she uttered the name of a six-year-old victim, followed by more names of infants and toddlers who tragically lost their lives. Despite her evident emotional strain, she persevered, systematically naming more victims — from months-old babies to the elderly.

Climate justice and human rights

Bringing global attention to one of the world’s longstanding conflicts in the Middle East has added another dimension to the UN Climate Summit. There is no climate justice without human rights, the protesters strongly chanted.

“It will be the height of hypocrisy if we call for just transition to clean energy if people are actually dying in refugee camps and hospitals, or we see our lands laid to waste in ashes and painted by blood. People are dying, and whole lineages are being wiped out. This is genocide,” US-based Palestinian poet and activist Tariq Luthun said during his protest speech.

People first

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Luke Espiritu, a labour leader from the Philippines and member of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), said: “We are making it clear: Climate advocates stand for victims of genocide. We fight for the oppressed as we stand for the environment.”

“There is no climate justice without human rights. We do not simply hug trees or cry ‘protect the dolphins and sea turtles’. If preserving other life forms is linked to our survival as a species, then clearly, we see that keeping within 1.5 degrees Celsius to save humanity becomes hollow if we allow the slaughter and degradation of human life not by extreme weather events but by bullets and bombs,” Espiritu added.

Luke Espiritu. Photo: Angel Tesorero

Luke Espiritu. Photo: Angel Tesorero

No to oppression

Climate activists added they could never remain neutral when thousands of people die under the yoke of oppression.

Arnold Padilla, coordinator at Food Sovereignty Programme–PAN Asia Pacific and Global Peoples Caravan for Food, Land, & Climate Justice campaign, said: “We strongly stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, whose lands, including for food production, have been forcibly grabbed by a Zionist regime long before the current bombings.

“We condemn the forced starvation that Israel has wreaked upon Palestine as part of its occupation and genocide campaign. These atrocities have made the Palestinian people even more vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, something that we must also stress as the world gathers for COP28,” he added.

Lidy Nacpil, convenor of COP28 Coalition and Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, composed of civil society organisations from 75 countries, added: “We condemn the continued killing and destruction in Gaza. It is clear that we cannot let this catastrophe continue.

“We have to speak up in support of Palestinians who are suffering from disaster upon disaster due to longstanding occupation and the climate crisis. We call for a ceasefire, the lifting of the blockade and an end to the occupation of Palestine. We stand in solidarity with all people and communities in their struggle for climate justice and against oppression, exploitation, racism, apartheid and colonialism,” she added.

‘Please stop – that is too much’

Other climate activists from South America, Europe and Asia gave short but emotionally charged speeches before the one-hour protest ended.

The powerful message resonated with the crowd — observers, passersby, and some in the media were moved by the impassioned plea to halt aggression against Gaza. Attendees at the protest felt the weight as the names of the victims were disclosed, and towards the conclusion of the programme, a few voices were heard urging, “Please stop – that is too much.”

Following the speeches, a moment of silence was observed. Protesters raised their arms, fists clenched in a show of defiance. Their silence spoke volumes, mirroring the chants that echoed at the protest’s outset: “When human rights are under attack, what do we do? We stand and fight back!”

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This report is original to The Khaleej Times where the reporter is senior deputy editor.

CPP: If surrender is all Galvez wants, we are not negotiating

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) warned it will not negotiate if all presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. wants in the prospective negotiations between the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is surrender of the revolutionary groups.

In a statement Sunday, December 3, CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena criticized Galvez’s opposition to calls to have the CPP, NDFP and the New People’s Army removed from the GRP’s list of so-called terrorists.

Valbuena said the former general dismissed as “pre-conditions” calls made by various organizations to also remove NDFP National Executive Council member and former chief peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni from the list as well as the release of at least 12 NDFP peace negotiators and consultants.

“[H]e should explain to the public how peace talks with the NDFP can proceed without removing the CPP/NPA/NDFP from the GRP’s ‘terrorist list’ without the GRP violating its own oft-repeated policy of ‘We do not negotiate with terrorists.’ Doesn’t it smack of bad faith that he will negotiate with Ka Luis across the table while calling him a ‘terrorist?’ Valbuena asked.

Reacting to statements made by various groups after the simultaneous announcement of the November 23 GRP-NDFP Joint Statement, Galvez said, “There should be no preconditions whatsoever, as these can derail future discussions.”

“As we have learned from our past experiences, making such preconditions even before the start of the discussions put a huge burden on both sides when there is still a need to agree on the parameters and framework of the talks,” he added.

Among those who made such calls were the CPP and activist groups such as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Karapatan that also welcomed the Joint Statement stating the parties’ desire to resume peace negotiations.

In their press conference last November 28, NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julieta de Lima clarified that their call to have their consultants and nearly 800 other political prisoners released are not preconditions but issues to be discussed before formal talks can proceed.

Valbuena said Galvez should not automatically dismiss such calls but explain to the public how the negotiations with the NDFP can proceed when the group’s consultants are in jail.

“Indeed, these are practical issues, which if unresolved, makes it very difficult to even imagine how peace talks can proceed, both from the perspective of the GRP (the ‘we do not negotiate with terrorists’ quandary), and the NDFP (‘we cannot negotiate from behind bars’),” Valbuena explained.

Valbuena said that if Galvez is averse to hearing such demands, he could not be expected to hear about “the basic and urgent demands” of the people for land reform and national industrialization as well as other social justice and national sovereignty issues.

The CPP officer also challenged Galvez to explain the former general’s own statements regarding a non-existent “final peace agreement” and to make the prospective formal negotiations “start anew.”

“Does Galvez want to reduce peace talks to mere ‘surrender’ talks, which we are keenly aware is what the military and the US (United States of America) have long wanted?” Valbuena asked.

“If capitulation is what Galvez and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) merely wants, then they should immediately be told: this is not negotiable!” Valbuena warned. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP, other groups welcome possible peace talks resumption

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) welcomed the signing of the Oslo Joint Statement last November 23 in Oslo, Norway by representatives of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) declaring intent to hold formal peace negotiations.

In a statement issued after the simultaneous announcement by both parties and the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator, the CPP said it supports the NDFP Negotiating Panel led by interim chairperson Julieta de Lima, Coni Ledesma and Asterio Palima as well as NDFP National Executive Council member Luis Jalandoni “in their representation of broad democratic interests of the Filipino people” in the prospective resumption of negotiations.

“The Oslo Joint Statement is a first half-step in the long march leading to the resumption of formal peace negotiations, and in the even longer road of achieving the people’s aspiration for a just and lasting peace,” CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said.

The CPP blamed former GRP president Rodrigo Duterte for wasting gains made by the NDFP and GRP negotiating panels that seemed close to signing major agreements under the social and economic reform agenda of the talks.

Among those set to be signed upon were free land distribution to poor farmers and a stand down agreement before Duterte terminated the negotiations in June 2017, subsequently declaring the NDFP, CPP and the New People’s Army as so-called terrorist organizations in November of that year.

“In his blood-lust, former GRP President Duterte threw ten thousand thorns and spikes at the road of peace and rendered it impassable. With the mistaken notion that the armed revolution can be crushed through sheer armed might, Duterte unleashed his war of state terrorism marked by abductions, torture, murder and massacres,” Valbuena said.

The CPP said Duterte utterly failed as shown by the Marcos GRP’s discussions with the NDFP to possibly resume peace negotiations.

‘Thorns and spikes’

CPP said it is now the “distinct responsibility” of the Marcos government to remove roadblocks that litter the road to peace negotiations.

The revolutionary party said Marcos must release all the NDFP peace consultants to allow them to take part in the discussions and negotiations and rescind the “terrorist” designation of the NDFP, the CPP, the NPA as well as those individually proscribed such as Jalandoni and other personnel of the NDFP.

The CPP said Marcos must withdraw Duterte-issued Executive Order No 70 and Memorandum Order No 32, dismantle the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and repeal the Anti-Terror Law in order for the discussions on possible talks resumption to move forward.

The group added Marcos should also order the Armed Forces of the Philippines to withdraw armed soldiers conducting so-called localized peace negotiations and community support in civilian communities defending their land and democratic rights that are subjected to aerial bombing and artillery shelling.

The CPP also called for the release of more than 800 political prisoners in the country.

Other groups express support

Other groups also expressed support to the signing of the Oslo Joint Communique, asking the parties to prioritize social justice, economic concerns and human rights in the negotiations if the talks resume.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said it welcomes the development as it hopes the peace talks could be a platform to hear out urgent people’ concerns such as landlessness, lack of decent jobs and livelihood and brutal military attacks on civilian communities.

“We advise them to overcome the malicious actions of peace spoilers. This necessarily entails the reversal of presidential proclamations and orders that make it impossible to restart the peace process,” BAYAN added.

Rights group Karapatan also said it welcomes the signing of the document it said should facilitate the reaffirmation of commitments and adherence to previously signed agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, and Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

In a statement, Karapatan also said it hopes for the finalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms and the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms towards the resolution of the root causes of the armed conflict if the talks resume. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP, NDFP announce possible resumption of peace talks

The Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) simultaneously announced the possible resumption of formal peace negotiations after the approval of a Joint Communique signed six years to the day after former president Rodrigo Duterte terminated the talks.

In a November 23 communique signed in Oslo, Norway, the parties said the development resulted from a series of informal discussions held in The Netherlands and Norway starting in 2022 between their respective emissaries.

The communique said the discussions were upon the initiative of former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista who was personally welcomed by then NDFP chief political Consultant Jose Maria Sison.

The parties said the discussions were facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG).

“Cognizant of the serious socioeconomic and environmental issues, and the foreign security threats facing the country, the parties recognize the need to unite as a nation in order to urgently address these challenges and resolve the reasons for the armed conflict,” the Communique said.

The document said both parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the nearly 55-year old armed conflict.

“The parties acknowledge the deep-rooted socioeconomic and political grievances and agree to come up with a framework that sets the priorities for the peace negotiation with the aim of achieving the relevant socioeconomic and political reforms towards a just and lasting peace. Such framework, that will set the parameters for the final peace agreement, shall be agreed upon by both parties,” it said.

“Consequently, we envision and look forward to a country where a united people can live in peace and prosperity,” it added.

The communique was signed by Special Assistant to the President Sec. Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo Jr. in behalf of the GRP and NDFP National Executive Council member Luis Jalandoni.

It was witnessed by Presidential Adviser on Peace and Reconciliation and Unity Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. and Bautista for the GRP.

NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julieta de Lima and member Coni Ledesma witnessed for the NDFP.

RNG Special Envoy Kristina Lie Revheim also signed as witness.

Norwegian foreign minister Espen Barth Eide attended the signing ceremony held at the Oslo City Hall. Eide also affimed RNGs continuing commitment to act as Third Party Facilitator to the negotiations.

Screenshot of the NDFP press conference held online.

Working towards talks resumption

In an online press conference today, de Lima said NDFP’s resolve to pursue negotiations with the Marcos Jr. GRP stems from its determination to fulfill the people’s aspirations to address the root causes of the armed conflict.

“It is our goal that the peace negotiations would result in comprehensive agreement on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms and provide the solution to problems which have long burdened the Filipino people,” de Lima said.

De Lima said they would reconstitute NDFP’s negotiating panel and appoint new members before the resumption of formal negotiations.

Former NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili died due to illness 2020 while panel member Benito Tiamzon was reportedly killed by the military in August 2022. NDFP chief political consultant Sison died due to illness last December.

De Lima said serious concerns must still be discussed, addressed and worked on by the parties, including, the participation of detained NDFP consultants in the peace negotiations; the assurance of safety and immunity for those involved in the peace negotiations; the general, unconditional and omnibus release of all political prisoners; and the abrogation of the unjustified terrorist designation of the NDFP, its panel members, consultants and others who are working for peace. 

She also called on peace supporters to push the parties to pursue the negotiations and find ways to address the roots of the armed conflict in the country.

On the side of the GRP, Galvez led the announcement of the signing of the communiqué in a simultaneous press briefing in Malacanan Palace.

“Both sides have affirmed their sincere desire to achieve national reconciliation and unity under the Marcos administration, agreeing to resolve and further address socioeconomic and political issues towards achieving a peaceful end to the armed conflict and armed struggle of the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP),” he said.

The RNG Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced the development in a statement.

“The Philippine government and the country’s communist rebels have agreed to restart peace negotiations after a six-year hiatus, with the aim of ending decades of armed strife,” its statement said.

“I would like to congratulate the government of the Philippines and the communist movement NDFP on their decision to start formal peace negotiations. This is an important and timely step towards securing lasting peace in the Philippines,” Eide added.

In his own remarks, Jalandoni said the NDFP had always been open and willing to negotiate with the GRP if it will be for the interest and benefit of the Filipino people.

He said the NDFP shall ensure the bilateral nature of the negotiations, the reaffirmation of binding agreements and negotiate on a framework of principles that will be mutually acceptable to both parties.

“We shall earnestly pursue the substantive agenda that will provide concrete benefits for the people, keeping in mind always that the roots of the armed conflict must be resolved,” Jalandoni said.

Prior to Duterte’s termination of talks in June 2017, the GRP and the NDFP were close to signing an interim peace agreement (IPA) that also included a stand down agreement; guidelines and procedures towards an IPA and the resumption of talks and its attached timetable, and the NDFP proposed draft of the amnesty proclamation.

Jalandoni added they will work for the removal of “impediments…incompatible with the aims and purposes of peace negotiations in good faith.

NDFP peace negotiator Asterio Palima was also present in the media briefing. He remarked that while Marcos Jr. issued Proclamation 404 granting amnesty to NDFP, Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and other groups, such programs should be the result of negotiated peace based on justice and addressing the roots of the civil war. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Dubai OFWs to ask Marcos about high prices of goods in PH during UAE visit

By Angel L. Tesorero

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. will arrive in Dubai on November 29 to attend COP (Conference of Parties) 28 and also to visit the huge Filipino community in the emirate. It will be the first time in 14 years that a Philippine president will come to the country and meet his compatriots.

Marcos shall participate in the United Nations Climate Summit, but there are other concerns his fellow Filipinos would also like to hear from him, including “effective response to economic issues besetting Filipinos back home, while underscoring the urgency for effective solutions towards a more environmentally-resilient Philippines.”

They would like to hear solutions to soaring prices of commodities as much as they would like to know the Philippine government’s stance on mining, decarbonization and transition to clean energy.

The reporter spoke to Filipino community leaders, entrepreneurs and long-time residents to capture the collective spirit of more than 600,000 Filipino expatriates and know their agenda and expectations during a meeting with the Filipino community on Wednesday (November 29) at Dubai World Trade Center.

More than a diplomatic trip

Rex Bacarra, Ph.D., university professor of Philosophy and Ethics, said: “As a Filipino expatriate living in the UAE for 16 years, I view the official visit of President Marcos as more than a diplomatic trip. It is set against the backdrop of the Philippines navigating through the turbulent waters of rapidly rising prices of everyday goods. I look with anticipation and scrutiny his engagement with the Filipino community would mean addressing the questions about pressing economic issues while underscoring the urgency for effective solutions towards a more resilient country.”

Rex Bacarra, Ph.D., university professor of Philosophy and Ethics. — Supplied photo
Rex Bacarra, Ph.D., university professor of Philosophy and Ethics. — Supplied photo

“As somebody who regularly sends money to the Philippines, the visit of President Marcos to the UAE presents a unique opportunity for critical dialogue to know and understand if there are clear, practical solutions to address the concerns of Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad,” he noted, adding: “Do we have long-term policies to ensure sustainable growth and stability of prices?”

Bacarra continued: “As Pres. Marcos will be participating in COP28, I also would like to know his administration’s stance on mining and environmental protection, as well as protecting our economic interests and border security in the West Philippine Sea.”

Better consular services

Streamlining immigration procedures for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), broader protection abroad and better consular services are also among the pressing issues Filipinos want addressed.

Community leader Josie Conlu. — Supplied photo
Community leader Josie Conlu. — Supplied photo

Community leader Josie Conlu would like to hear from Marcos “ways to streamline and simplify the immigration procedures while ensuring the protection of Filipino workers’ rights and welfare. He should address concerns such as visa processing, employment contracts, and the prevention of human trafficking.”

Long-time Dubai resident Joyce Villalino-Alexander added: “To lessen the burden on OFWs, there should be consistent consular services on weekends at the Philippine missions and Migrant Workers Office (MWO) so we don’t have to take time off from work on weekdays. Charges for contract verification fees should abolished or at least reduced.”

Long-time Dubai resident Joyce Villalino-Alexander. — Supplied photo
Long-time Dubai resident Joyce Villalino-Alexander. — Supplied photo

Rights and welfare

Migrante Middle East, an organisation promoting migrants’ rights and welfare, would like to hear about sustainable job creation in Philippines. They noted “the lack of employment opportunities has resulted in unabated exodus of Filipino overseas workers.”

They also asked for more welfare officers at MWO to address the needs of distressed OFWs and effective response to unfair labour practices and human trafficking.

Boost to bilateral relations

Meanwhile, nurse and entrepreneur Junah Balungcas would like to see Pres. Marcos “fostering stronger economic ties with the UAE for the benefit of more Filipino entrepreneurs and businesses in the country.”

Nurse and entrepreneur Junah Balungcas. — Supplied photo
Nurse and entrepreneur Junah Balungcas. — Supplied photo

“As a business owner and healthcare professional, I appreciate the opportunities and support offered by the UAE. I am also fully supportive of Pres. Marcos and I appreciate the positive steps he is taking for the betterment of our country,” added Balungcas, founder and CEO of Baofriend Restaurant FZCO.

Rolly Brucales, managing director of Off The Hook restaurant. — Supplied photo
Rolly Brucales, managing director of Off The Hook restaurant. — Supplied photo

Filipino businessmen are also calling for the immediate passing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which began in February 2022. Filipino restaurateur Rolly Brucales, managing director of Off The Hook restaurant, said: “We need to strengthen the trade relationship with the UAE. We also would like to see stricter implementation of trademarks and franchises.”

Climate action

For her part, Bobbie Carella, chairman emeritus of Philippine Business Council-Dubai and Northern Emirates, would like to hear Marcos “championing climate action by embracing renewable energy sources, managing forestry and natural resources, and strengthening and enforcing environmental policies, among others.”

Bobbie Carella, chairman emeritus of Philippine Business Council-Dubai and Northern Emirates. — Supplied photo
Bobbie Carella, chairman emeritus of Philippine Business Council-Dubai and Northern Emirates. — Supplied photo

“This isn’t solely about today; it’s about ensuring a vibrant, cooler, greener, and sustainable world for future generations. After all, there is no planet Earth B,” she added. #

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This report is originally published on Khaleej Times where the reporter is a senior deputy editor.

Tuloy ang welga: PISTON rejects ‘further study’ of jeepney phase-out scheme

Striking public transport drivers and operators rejected government promises to further study their demands to stop the phase-out of traditional jeepneys and announced the continuation of their scheduled three-day strike.

In a statement, the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) said government representatives offered only promises that do not address their fears of losing their livelihood.

PISTON president Mody Floranda said Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) chairperson Teofilo Guadiz III only told them the agency will further “study” their demand to withdraw their December 31 deadline against independently-operated  traditional jeepneys.

Floranda added that Guadiz had the same response to their additional demand of scrapping the franchise consolidation schemes under public transport cooperatives as well as the replacement of the iconic Filipino jeepneys.

“Puro paasa. Hindi na mahinitay ng mga kumakalam na sikmura ng mga tsuper at operator ang ‘pag-aaral’ ng LTFRB,” Floranda said. (They just want to bring our hopes up again. But the empty stomachs of drivers and operators could no longer wait for their so-called studies.)

In a statement, Department of Transportation secretary Jaime Bautista said the December 31 deadline is not for the replacement of traditional jeepneys but on the consolidation of franchises.

Denying there is a government phase-out program on the jeepneys, Bautista added that roadworthy jeepneys may continue to operate next year.

Bautista also said that there are cheaper vehicles that operators may buy through loans from government banks .

Floranda however said the government attempts to pacify striking jeepney drivers do not address their demands but an effort to make it appear they are concerned about the public welfare.

PISTON has accused the franchise consolidation program as a scheme to take away jeepney franchises from small and independent operators and concentrate them under transport cooperatives controlled by businesspersons.

Members of transport group Manibela joined in Monday’s transport strike in Metro Manila and key regions around the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)