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Eco-social pact by yearend eyed in Manila peace talks
By Ding Cervantes

Apr 18, 2017

CLARK FREEPORT -- The Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panels are slated to meet in a “neutral ground” in Manila any time amid optimism they would finally approve a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms (CASER) by yearend.

“This is historic. We are hoping for the best and expecting an outcome that is above acceptable,” Antonio Flores, secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). said in a statement yesterday.

The schedules of meetings from April to May of the GRP and NDFP bilateral teams were announced in a joint statement issued during the closing ceremonies of the 4th round of peace talks held in The Netherlands early this month.

Flores noted that “both panels have agreed to accelerate the approval of a CASER through the formation and operation of bilateral teams on agrarian reform and rural development (ARRD) and national industrialization and economic development (NIED).”

“Both parties have targeted to fi nalize and sign CASER by the yearend,” he said.

Flores said “the bilateral team meetings in between formal negotiations are important part of the acceleration of the peace talks and the forging of a CASER in the soonest possible time. We are hoping that both sides would ‘iron out their diff erences’ and come up with doable and implementable solutions to poverty, unemployment, landlessness and other social ills.”

The NDFP and GRP bilateral teams, each composed of three members and unlimited number of resource persons are set to meet on April 20 to discuss the contentious provisions on agrarian reform and rural development on the CASER drafts.

“The teams focused on NIED will meet on May 4. The bilateral teams will meet in the presence and supervision of at least one reciprocal working committee member from both panels,” Flores said.

“Both parties should focus more on addressing the long-standing demands of the people,” he added.

Flores insisted that “the burden and challenge is now with the government to walk its talk to make real free land distribution as a basic principle of genuine land reform.”

“All branches of the government should cooperate towards this goal of free land distribution, referring to Congress, that is mandated to legislate significant policy reforms,” he said.

“The Department of Agrarian Reform is already advocating free land distribution but the proposed measure for a new land reform program with free land distribution is still pending at the House of Representatives for almost a decade now. Malacanang should certify it as urgent and Congress should consider it for approval when session resumes next month,” Flores noted.

He said “doing so would provide a conducive environment for the advancement of the peace talks that could proceed towards the ultimate resolution of the armed conflict.”

The next round of NDFP-GRP peace talks is scheduled on May 26 to June 2.




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