Deal on socio-economic reforms needed to end hostilities with NPA

Kristian Javier - Philstar.com
Deal on socio-economic reforms needed to end hostilities with NPA

In this file photo taken on Dec. 26, 2010, members of the communist New Peoples Army have their faces painted to hide their identity during the celebration of the 42nd anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines at Mt. Diwata in southern Philippines. AP Photo/Pat Roque, File

MANILA, Philippines — Panels of the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines will need to approve the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms to move on to discussing an end to hostilities, government panel member Hernani Braganza said.
"CASER is the trigger mechanism that would lead to the discussion of constitutional reforms and an end of hostilities," Braganza said on Wednesday after a two-day consultation workshop on the proposed social economic reforms and ceasefire in Baguio City that was also meant to drum up support for the peace talks.
Braganza added that CASER, envisioned as an agreement to address some of the major root causes of insurgency in the Philippines, is the most important agenda being discussed in the peace negotiations.
"Hindi lamang with the National Democratic Front but also with government because we are talking about reforms. When we talk about reforms, we’re trying to reform government…we are trying to come up with reforms on policy issues, on program issues, on specific project to implement that specific policy," Braganza said.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has announced that the next round of talks will be in Noordwijk in the Netherlands from May 27 to June 1.
The panels are still working on a draft CASER. According to the NDFP, its CASER draft is premised on the assumption "that Philippine society is semifeudal and semicolonial and thus needs genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization and a free and independent foreign trade and monetary policy for national development." It said in January that it is confident a draft will be finalized by the end of the year.

Ceasefire needed for CASER

Braganza said that a ceasefire needs to be in place before reforms that will be agreed on in CASER can be successfully implemented and to provide a "more conductive environment" to let both parties talk "freely and openly with minimal distractions."
He added a ceasefire "also provides a breathing space especially in the conflict-affected areas" since people in these areas may conduct their business and live their lives "unhampered". The ceasefire will also ensure the delivery of basic government services to conflict-affected areas.
Panels have agreed on a joint ceasefire but are still discussing the details and security mechanisms of the truce.
In the peace track with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the rebel group and the government have representatives on a committee tasked with monitoring implementation of the ceasefire. A multi-party Bangsamoro Transition Commission has also been working on a draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that is meant to implement the final peace agreement with the MILF without setting aside a separate peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front.
OPAPP said that the consultation workshop, aimed to generate inpus, comments and suggestions from key officials of the Cordillera Administrative Region, is only the first of a series of a nationwide regional consultations.
Input from Regional Development Councils and Regional Peace and Order Councils will be included in the fifth round of formal peace talks in late May.

Regional Peace and Order Councils

Braganza said that the government is also looking at the RPOCs as a security measure while the joint ceasefire is not yet in place.
He added that an enhanced RPOC may also include government agencies focused on delivering basic services.
"We have chosen the RPOC as the mechanism because this is where all the agencies of government can meet… it can also be a measure where local government can be empowered, including security forces to address the most immediate and basic needs of the people especially in the conflict-affected areas," Braganza said.

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