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Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms

NDFP RWC-SER: SAGAY 9 MASSACRE UNDERSCORES EVILS OF HACIENDA SYSTEM AND THE NEED FOR GENUINE AGRARIAN REFORM

in Statements
Juliet de Lima
Chairperson, NDFP RWC-SER
22 October 2018

The NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) strongly condemns the massacre of nine peasants, including two minors, in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on the night of October 20.

The victims, who were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), were having supper after working on their land cultivation area in the 75-hectare Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon as part of efforts to stave off hunger during the “tiempo muerto” or dead season in the sugar industry. The peasants plant food crops to feed their families in idle lands that are already covered by, but remain undistributed under the government’s land reform program.

This massacre bring to 197 the total number of peasants killed under the Duterte regime in connection with agrarian struggles.

The murder of the Sagay 9 underscores the evils of the hacienda system and the failure of the GRP to effect social justice through genuine agrarian reform.

As long as a handful of landlords monopolize land ownership and perpetuate their power through force, the Sagay 9 will not be the last victims of agrarian-related violence. Agrarian unrest will persist as the peasant masses continue to suffer from widespread poverty, high indebtedness, severe hunger and malnutrition.

President Rodrigo Duterte and the militarists in his cabinet have blood on their hands for terminating the peace negotiations that would have resulted in the adoption of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)’s section on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD).

The draft ARRD, which was scheduled for signing last November before Duterte abruptly cancelled the peace talks provides for the free distribution of big landholdings and landed estates including lands targeted by the government for distribution, haciendas that are under the control of private individuals or entities, disputed lands with local agrarian reform and peasant struggles and lands already occupied by farmers through various forms of land cultivation and collective farming activities.

The break-up of land monopolies and free land distribution are the just, necessary and urgent corrective measures to the centuries-old social injustices suffered by the peasantry. ###

#JusticeForSagay9
#StopKillingFarmers

Developing the Economy while Safeguarding the Environment

in Mainstream
Liga ng Agham para sa Bayan
by Marie Johnson
|| Liga ng Agham para sa Bayan (LAB)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines is an organization of scientists, technologists and environmentalist for the people ||

Vinta, Yolanda, Pablo, Sendong, Quiel, Pepeng, Ondoy.

Every year, the list grows longer as the country marks another destructive typhoon that leaves widespread devastation in its wake. Every year also government authorities seem to fail to fully learn the lessons from previous disasters. They fall short of the needed preparations and respond late and inadequately to the new onslaughts. Thus, in many instances, our people in the gravely affected areas are left to face the devastations and endure the prolonged hazards and inconveniences largely on their own.

And almost always the poor and marginalized sectors—the peasants, fisherfolk, national minorities, and the urban poor and their respective communities bear the brunt of these nature-inflicted disasters.

The problem, however, is not merely government neglect or inadequate capability to cope with the disasters.

Plunder of resources = backward economy and ravaged environment

The decades-old export-oriented economic policy/program has opened the country’s natural resources to exploitation by foreign monopoly capitalists, their big comprador bourgeoisie partners and bureaucrat capitalists.

Their plunder has resulted in a ravaged environment and a backward, underdeveloped economy. The denudation of mountains and destruction of watersheds, through large-scale open-pit mining and logging operations, are primarily accountable for the ferocious flash floods, massive landslides and the incalculable devastations they entail whenever strong typhoons visit our country.

Key tools of such plunder are the neoliberal policies on mining, logging, large-scale plantations, power/energy, and other extractive and destructive industries. Of late this problem, tagged as “development aggression”, has been worsened by the militarization of vast areas of the countryside and upland communities as part of the state’s continually recycled yet unsuccessful counterinsurgency program. Not only has this development aggression been destroying the environment; it also has been displacing peasants, indigenous peoples and national minorities from their lands.

Despite our vast rich agricultural lands, forestry, marine, mineral and energy resources, the nation’s economy remains backward. It has stayed mainly agrarian and increasingly engaged in supplying cheap labor to both developed and developing economies all over the world, while exporting agricultural products and raw extractive minerals. Without a significant Filipino industrial sector, we continue to import needed industrial inputs, capital equipment, finished goods, and agricultural commodities.

National industrialization and agrarian reform keys to development and sound environment

To reduce our poor people’s vulnerability to natural disasters, we need to develop a modern and diversified industrial economy that ensures rapid and sustained growth while securing livelihood and satisfying the basic needs of our people. We need to industrialize and develop our national economy within the constraints of our fragile environment—while scientifically and conscientiously protecting, safeguarding and managing the utilization of its mineral resources and rehabilitating its damaged watersheds and enhancing its flora and fauna bounties.

This entails implementing genuine agrarian reform, rural development, and national industrialization. National industrialization seeks maximum self-sufficiency in the industrial production of both capital and consumer goods. It seeks to mobilize Filipino capital to produce primarily for domestic consumption rather than for export.

The reference book Philippine Society and Revolution highlights the stunted growth of our economy despite our vast natural resources and huge labor force. On the other hand, it also shows the enormous potential of our country to industrialize given that it is among the most mineral-rich countries in the world with many of the basic minerals needed for industrial development.

How would such industrialization look like? And what is the role of environmental protection in such a plan?

National industrialization is the development of key domestic industries to attain self-sufficiency in industrial production of capital goods needed by ancilliary industries, aimed at bringing about economic growth and independence. It also aims to develop intermediate and consumer-goods production capacity for domestic needs based on national potentials and to ensure food security and for all.

This is in contrast to the current pattern of production, investments, and trade that exports agricultural and extractive raw materials, imports surplus finished goods, agricultural commodities and capital and re-exports low value-added reassembled or repackaged imported manufactures.

A new way to look at mining and mineral processing

Mining has been part of the historical development of national economies. In the experience of industrialized nations, a prosperous mining industry is needed to supply the minerals needed for production by industries that would, along with modernized agriculture, provide the basic needs of the people.

The Philippines is a mineral resource-rich country. Despite the abundance of such resources, the country lacks the necessary industries to process the minerals. Instead, the mining sector has been liberalized further by inviting more large-scale and foreign mining corporations.

By judiciously utilizing mineral resources, we can develop a local mining industry for the production of raw materials such as base metals and basic chemicals needed by the basic heavy and medium industries producing steel for construction, engines for various uses, and agricultural tools.

Mining under a national industrialization framework departs from its current character of production, which is primarily dictated by the demands of the international market for raw minerals. Instead we shall base mineral extraction on our actual needs and the demands of industrialization. In this regard, all mining operations shall be strictly regulated to ensure the domestic processing of mineral ores up to the secondary and tertiary stages of industrial production.

We shall endeavor to build an integrated national minerals industry that would also provide employment not only on the extraction side but also in the downstream industries that should be built. These factories will process our own minerals for our own use and enable us independently to produce machinery, tools and consumers goods that we will need. It will also uncouple the mining industry from its dependence on world market prices and exports and directly integrate it to national development needs.

The country lacks intermediate processing capability for base metals since most operations directly export raw or semi-processed ores after extraction. Intermediate processing includes smelting and refining which are pre-requisites to more downstream industries, which produce the end products that factories and consumers use.

We now have smelting and refining capabilities only in gold, silver and copper but lack the necessary intermediate processing capabilities for nickel, iron and chromite which are necessary for steelmaking. Among the potential downstream industries of nickel processing are stainless steel, special steel, tool steels and batteries.

Current domestic steel consumption is approximately 7 million metric tons, with around 5 million MT imported. South Korea, now the world’s fourth largest producer of steel, started out production in 1972 by making special efforts to supply iron and steel to domestic companies at below export prices.

Mining, land reform and national industrialization

Industrial metal production should be tied with the needs of land reform and rural development. After free land distribution, agricultural modernization and mechanization would be crucial in the overall development of farm production. Agricultural mechanization pertains to the manufacture, distribution, and utilization of tools, implements, and machines for agricultural production and post-production operations.

Mechanization of farming will increase labor and land productivity. Agricultural machines and equipment help in soil preparation, better irrigation, crop protection and reduce post-harvest losses increasing effective crop yield. Currently most agricultural machinery is imported.

With an integrated minerals industry producing not only raw materials but finished metals for tools and machinery, we can reduce in steps this dependence on imports until we are self-sufficient in the production of farm machineries, tools and infrastructure materials needed by the agriculture sector.

It is not only the metals and steel industry that we should develop but also the extraction of other minerals needed by agriculture, such as fertilizers and other inputs.

Sustainability

As a general rule, since the mining industry is being developed to support and enhance our industrial capacity and to achieve food security, prime agricultural lands and areas that are targeted for food production must not be classified as mineral lands. Mining activity on such lands must be banned. Due care should also be collectively ensured so that off-site effects of mining would not adversely affect adjoining land areas.

The state has a crucial role in overseeing the disposition of our resources and industries in line with the national interest. This involves the determination of available resources; establishing sustainable targets for exploration, mine development and production; procurement and allocation of capital and technology; and management of the domestic mineral market.

The level of extraction and the amount of mineral production should be based on the desired level of industrialization and agricutural modernization. It should be done in consultation with and consent of those in mining-affected communities and should guarantee the right of indigenous peoples and national minorities to self determination and their ancestral domain.

In such mining operations, job security, living wages and safe working conditions must be ensured. Research and development for substitute and new materials, mine rehabilitation and the reduction of waste and pollution should be encouraged. At all stages of mining, environmental protection and development shall be guaranteed.


Note: The above discussion on mining and national industrialization has been derived from the section on environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation of the draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), produced by the Reciprocal Working Committee of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace negotiating panel for the long-running GRP-NDFP peace talks.

The draft was to have been exchanged with that of the GRP panel’s counterpart RWC and hammered out into a unified document, which was expected to be signed by the two parties in the GRP-NDFP fifth round of formal negotiations scheduled in late November last year. But President Duterte abruptly and arbitrarily cancelled the peace talks altogether.

The NDFP CASER version contains these proposals in seven sections. These are: 1) Principles of environmental protection and economic development; 2) Definition of terms; 3) Measures for managing the environment and ensuring resiliency; 4) End environmentally destructive practices; 5) Regulation of mining and marine wealth extraction; 6) Ban on alienation of natural resources and patent control; and 7) Implementing provisions.

The document recognizes that “environmental protection, conservation and wise use of natural resources are necessary components of socioeconomic development policies and that ecological balance is integral to national development”. Such economic development must make judicious use of the country’s renewable and non-renewable resources, balancing ecological concerns with economic targets and involve rational planning and zoning to alleviate congestion and pollution. It reserves the country’s lands, minerals, waters, flora and fauna, and other natural resources for utilization by the Filipino people.

The NDFP seeks to guarantee democratic consultation, consent, and participation of the affected communities in the use of our natural resources.

The proposal seeks to rehabilitate and protect watershed and other critical areas and to promote the use of renewable energy and the institution of programs to reduce waste. It also seeks compensation for people and communities affected by disasters, by massive pollution and contamination from logging, mining, energy, agro-chemical corporations, by military operations, and the like.

Moreover, the proposal prohibits ecologically destructive practices and the entry of hazardous waste and dangerous munitions.

With regard to mining, it ensures that mining shall only be undertaken when and where there are sufficient provisions for protecting and recovering the environment and that mineral production and development shall help develop local industry and modernize agriculture.

As regards our people’s vulnerability to nature-inflicted disasters, this is not only due to hydrometeorological hazards such as rainfall, typhoon winds or those from earthquakes and volcano eruptions. It is more so a function of the economic capacity of the communities exposed to these hazards. The reduction of this vulnerability will directly result from the availability of jobs that pay living wages— jobs that will result from industries that create domestic employment and serve the local market, and from agricultural modernization and land reform.

Mindlessly Mishandling the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

in Mainstream
by Leon Castro

Like a poker game that he plays all by himself, whimsically rigging the rules, is how Rodrigo R. Duterte now apparently treats the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. He has mindlessly cast aside all the hard work that both his government’s negotiating panel and that of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have painstakingly undertaken.

Twice did Duterte arbitrarily cancel the fifth round of formal negotiations, in May and August 2017. But in both instances (as he had done earlier) he subsequently resorted to back-channel talks and agreed to continue the negotiations.

Up till the last minute, all looked rosy for the peace talks. In two discreet back-channel discussions in October and early November—to which Duterte had given explicit go-signal—the GRP and NDFP panels worked furiously to hammer out three draft documents. They had agreed, at the minimum, to refine and initial the documents at the fifth round and, at the maximum, to finalize and sign them at the sixth round in early 2018. The heads and members of both panels were already in Oslo, Norway, when Duterte’s order to cancel the talks came.

The three draft documents were: a draft agreement on agrarian reform and rural development and on national industrialization and economic development (the prime aspects of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms or CASER); a draft Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire Agreement; and a draft General Amnesty for political prisoners.

Had the fifth round of formal negotiations proceeded and achieved its set objectives, 2017 would have ended with high hopes for continuing peace negotiations. And the Duterte government would have looked good in the eyes of the Filipino people.

Hundreds of hours of meetings cum negotiations by the Reciprocal Working Committees for Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER) went into the drafting of the first document, which could have accelerated the entire peace process towards addressing the root causes of the nearly 50 years of armed conflict and attaining just and lasting peace in the country.

Common agrarian reform and national industrialization drafts

Over seven months of peace talks with four formal rounds of negotiations, the NDFP and the GRP panels were able to forge ahead in crafting common drafts for agrarian reform and rural development and for national industrialization and economic development. They held bilateral meetings during the second, third and fourth rounds—in Oslo, Norway (October 7-8, 2016); Rome, Italy (January 22-24, 2017); and Nordwijk an Zee, The Netherlands (April 4-5, 2017), respectively. In addition, there were no less than 10 bilateral meetings in the Philippines and abroad by the NDFP and GRP RWCs-SER between April 25 and November 17 last year.

On agrarian reform and national industrialization, there were nine sections in the common draft signed in Manila by the RWCs last November 20 and witnessed by the Royal Norwegian Government third party facilitator. These are:

Free distribution of land to tillers, farmers, farmworkers and fisherfolks and writing off of the arrears in amortization payments by earlier land reform beneficiaries;

The agreement includes coverage of plantations and large-scale commercial farms with leasehold, joint venture, non-land transfer schemes (e.g. stock distribution option);

  • Immediate and expedited installation of farmer beneficiaries;
  • Implementation of agrarian support services on production, harvest, post-harvest, insurance, credit and free irrigation;
  • Elimination of exploitative lending and trading practices;
  • Fisheries and aquatic resources reforms;
  • National land and water use policy aligned with agrarian reform;
  • Develop rural industries and domestic science and technology; and
  • Building of rural infrastructure, such as irrigation, post-harvest, transport, communication, power facilities.

Signed on the same day, the NDFP and the GRP RWCs common draft on national industrialization listed 10 agreed-on sections, as follows

  1. Use of the term “national industrialization”;
  2. Explicit mention of economic planning;
  3. Development of specific industries, industrial sectors, and industrial projects;
  4. Nationalization of public utilities and mining;
  5. “Filipinization” of minerals processing and trade;
  6. Regulation of foreign investment;
  7. State intervention and regulation;
  8. Creation of workers’ councils;
  9. Breaking foreign monopoly control of industrial technologies; and
  10. Financing through higher taxes on the rich and lower on poor, as well as revenues from gambling, luxury goods, tobacco/alcohol, and tariffs. The parties also agreed to set up an industrial investment fund.

The agrarian reform and rural development and the national industrialization and economic development accords, are parts of the prospective Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) Part III, under the title Developing the National Economy. These are mutually acknowledged by the NDFP and the GRP as the most important aspects of the peace negotiations. When finally approved by the principals and implemented, they are expected to alleviate poverty and inequality in the country—addressing the root causes of the armed conflict.

From both sub-agreements, the social and economic reform negotiations are expected to move on to the next issues, which are environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation. The other parts of the CASER agenda include the following:

Part IV. Upholding people’s rights 
A. Rights of the working people
B. Promoting patriotic, progressive and pro-people culture
C. Recognition of ancestral lands and territories of national minorities

Part V. Economic sovereignty for national development 
A. Foreign economic & trade relations
B. Financial, monetary & fiscal policies
C. Social & economic planning

Part VI. Overall implementing mechanism

Part VII. Final provisions

Negotiations on the above issues are expected to be easier and faster, compared with those on agrarian reform and national industrialization which are deemed to be the hardest part of the entire negotiations.

Volatile GRP president

Apparently, all it took for Duterte to mindlessly cast aside these great achievements of the negotiations was his seeing on television militant activists protesting US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Philippines for the Asean summit last November. Were imagined personal slights arising from such protest action against one he probably considered a soul mate, more important to him than assiduously working to achieve peace?

Not long after seeing ASEAN protest videos on television, Duterte ordered his negotiators to cancel “all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDFP.” Subsequently, he issued Proclamation 360 (November 23) terminating the GRP-NDFP peace talks. This was followed by Proclamation 374 (December 5) declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as “terrorist organizations” under both the Human Security Act of 2007 (RA 9373) and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 (RA 10168).

Under the law, the proscription of the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations doesn’t instantly take effect. The government needs to first file a petition with a Regional Trial Court to proclaim the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations, which petition will have to undergo hearings before the court can issue a ruling. Yet Duterte’s proclamation and his military minions’ relentless campaign to slander the revolutionary organizations have opened the gates to more human rights violations, as happened in his notorious Oplan Tokhang against suspected drug users and peddlers.

His ordering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the reactionary government’s intelligence branches to arbitrarily list down suspected officers and members of underground revolutionary organizations and of their alleged aboveground “fronts” can only be interpreted as orders for increased intimidation, abduction, torture and murder of legal democratic activists and other civilians.

In the latter part of 2017, Duterte did these things that expose himself as a fraud and a liar disinterested in peace as well as a tyrant in the exact mold of his idol Ferdinand Marcos.

NDFP determined to fight for just peace

Duterte’s lies and slander against revolutionary organizations, however, failed to gain traction among the Filipino people. The people have become aware of and disgusted over Duterte’s mass murder of suspected drug users and peddlers. More and more have also wisened up to his obvious subservience to capitalist and foreign interests, plunder of the environment, attacks against peasant and national minority communities, and his own family’s connections with underworld groups. And his lies against the revolutionary forces are increasingly being dismissed as hot flashes of a drug-addled mind.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison has remarked that the US-directed Duterte regime is daydreaming that it can discredit and destroy the sovereign revolutionary will of the Filipino people by proscribing the revolutionary forces as terrorist organizations, by requiring them to submit themselves to the sham processes of the reactionary state, and by unleashing gross and systematic crimes of terrorism and human rights violations.

The Filipino people and the revolutionary forces, he said, are determined to fight for national and social liberation, people´s democracy, economic development, cultural progress and just peace.

While the Duterte fascist regime may have terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, Sison pointed out, “it cannot be too sure that it will last long [in power] because the Filipino people and even those in the GRP detest the monstrous crimes of the regime, especially mass murder, corruption and puppetry to the US.” The crisis of the ruling system continues to worsen and the resources of the regime for violence and deception are limited.

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