More than ceasefire: End the causes of armed conflict
Recently, the talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have been in the news as peace negotiators gather in Rome for the third round of the negotiations which started last July 2016.
Since 1969, the Communist Party of the Philippines has waged an armed struggle rooted in political, social, and economic inequalities prevalent in the country, manifested to majority of the people as poverty, hunger, lack of social services, and joblessness, among others. For more than three decades, the GRP and the NDFP have been engaged in negotiations that seek to address the root causes of the armed conflict.
The GRP-NDFP peace talks have gone on and off in the past 30 years, and only recently, have resumed following the election of President Rodrigo Duterte. Although this is the longest that mutual declaration of unilateral ceasefires has lasted, the discussion on bilateral ceasefire should not be treated as the priority agenda.
As both parties tackle social and economic reforms, at least 392 political prisoners are still in jail, military encampments in communities remain, and extrajudicial killings continue, victimizing innocent ones like the peasant leader from Negros who was only fighting for genuine land reform.
For the Filipino people, the most crucial part of the peace process is the negotiation on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) as it seeks to address the root causes of the armed conflict. The recent round of talks also seeks to address the gut issues faced by the people — problems caused by underdevelopment, exploitation, and widespread poverty.
AGHAM has always seen the peace talks as an avenue to discuss much-needed changes in the country’s social and economic framework. The present defective structure of Philippine society, crafted by our imperialist colonizers through policies and other means, has disregarded the objective of economic prosperity for national development. It has anchored our economy on false measures of development such as an economic growth rate that does not reflect equitable wealth distribution. Ultimately, it has adversely affected the lives of millions of Filipino people, forcing many to live their lives in poverty despite being the prime movers of the economy.
These structural problems in our society are manifested in different ways. One of these is the backward state of agriculture in the country. More than the low level of agricultural mechanization, farmers and peasants face the basic problem of landlessness which hinders their productivity and subjects them to the whims of landlords. Due to policies that prioritize what is deemed profitable and not what is needed, the food growers – the farmers – are unable to put food on their own tables.
Advocating for national industrialization
Another is the lack of basic industries which can pave the way for genuine development. In advocating for national industrialization, we have worked with various sectors who bear the brunt of our dependency on foreign capital: unemployed laborers, scientists, engineers, and technologists who are forced to acquire positions that do not match their skills, and even small Filipino-owned companies that are threatened to be eaten up by bigger and more powerful corporations.
Although differing in perspectives and outlooks, those who support the peace talks share the common vision of reforming the current system which benefits only a few. We believe that as long as the unjust conditions existing today persist, peace cannot be attained.
The slogan “peace based on social justice” is exactly the main goal of CASER. The negotiations on social and economic reforms seek to establish the basis for a just and lasting peace – a sovereign economy that benefits the majority of Filipinos.
In endeavoring for national economic development, CASER seeks to enact agrarian reform and rural development while simultaneously pursuing national industrialization, based on both parties’ agreed framework last July.
It is important to note that these two parts of this strategy depend on each other: without industrialization, agriculture cannot be sustainably and effectively managed. Without land reform and rural development, a steady source of raw materials for domestic needs will not be available. From these two main programs, the basis for a self-reliant economy should be set in place.
Genuine land reform and national industrialization will push for the development of agricultural modernization, making the sector more efficient in producing products. The surplus products of agriculture will then serve as raw materials for the industries we will build.
Millions of jobs for Filipinos both in urban and rural areas will be created. The products we will create will be products that we will be able to buy and use. We can also create various machineries to sustainably utilize and develop our natural resources. This is the kind of development that we want: a development that serves the interests of the people.
Today, the third round of peace talks will reach its conclusion, but the aspirations of the Filipino people for a better tomorrow will prevail. As long as CASER remains a framework, the road to genuine change that the Filipino people has long been wanting will be rough.
We call on fellow scientists and the Filipino people to support the peace talks. – Rappler.com
Feny Cosico is the secretary-general of the sicentist-activist group AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology of the People. She is an agriculturist and an environmental resource management major.