Agrarian reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano welcomes the fourth round of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) set on April 2 to 6 in Noordwijk in the Netherlands amid the recent spate of peasant killings in the countryside.
“Peace talks would ensure the implementation of genuine land reform as both panels have agreed on the significance of furthering the discussion on agrarian reform and rural development in crafting the draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER),” Mariano said.
Peasant struggle was at the forefront of the first three rounds of negotiations after both panels recognized free land distribution as the key to address the roots of armed conflict in the countryside. “Landlessness remains the main cause of farmers’ suffering and only pro-people policies on genuine agrarian reform would help us achieve national and agricultural industrialization,” Mariano added.
In a joint statement published by the negotiating panels of the GRP and the NDFP in the city of Utrecht last March 11, both parties reaffirmed all bilateral agreements made in the initial rounds of peace negotiations, including the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has already received 11 reports documenting 16 cases of murder of peasant activists and leaders for the first three months of 2017. Most victims are indigenous peoples from Mindanao, and had been involved in land disputes with big landlord-oligarchs and mining companies.
Mariano says the resumption of peace talks would address the growing agrarian unrest and would prevent further casualties after the termination of talks in early February. He further stated that the commitment of both panels in achieving a just and lasting peace would benefit farmers the most.
In a statement dated March 25, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced that a unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire will be issued before March 31 with hopes that the GRP would proclaim a similar ceasefire declaration after it was mutually agreed upon in the backchannel talks early this month.
Mariano believes that a total halt on the attacks against farmers would be among the urgent results of the peace talks as it would tackle the social injustices prevailing in rural areas. Among the substantive agenda to be discussed in Norway are social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
“Our continuing advocacy to push for the enactment of a genuine agrarian reform law would rectify the inherent flaws, loopholes and defects of previous agrarian reform programs that have exacerbated land monopoly by few landlord-oligarchs. We strongly support the continuing commitment of both panels in achieving a just and lasting peace in the country,” Mariano said.
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