Initial talks on social and economic reforms new hope for Filipinos–IBON

January 28, 2017

by IBON Foundation

Agreement in principle on free land distribution shows Parties can unite on people-centered measures beyond current government policy

The second round of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) concluded Thursday. One of the historic event’s main highlights was the exchange of draft proposals between the Reciprocal Working Committees on Socioeconomic Reforms (RWC-SER). These proposals will be deliberated in order to come up with a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

That the two Parties in the peace negotiations have produced their draft proposals for social and economic reforms is a first important step in forging a genuinely people-centered development program, research group IBON said. Amid the prevalence of profit-oriented policies, this can challenge not only the negotiating bodies but the entire Filipino people to push for reforms that would benefit the majority of the population that has for many decades been subjected to chronic poverty and a worsening jobs crisis in a backward and underdeveloped economy.

Based on the Joint Statement of the negotiating panels released upon the formal closing of the talks, the groups also initially reached a common understanding on the general features of agrarian problems in the Philippines and agreed in principle to the free distribution of land as part of the agreement’s governing framework.

IBON welcomed this steady progress of the talks on social and economic reforms. The agreement in principle on free land distribution also indicates that the GRP and NDFP can agree on policy measures beneficial to the people even beyond current government policy, said the group.

Looking at the publicly available drafts of both Parties, IBON observed that the NDFP has prepared an agreement well below its maximum socialist perspective, which indicates their willingness to make adjustments in order to reach common ground with the GRP. The GRP draft, however, still hews closely to the neoliberal, free market, and elite-biased framework that caused so many of the economy’s problems today, the group noted.

Government needs to be more open and willing to break free from its old thinking for an eventual agreement that will bring the economy forward and improve the welfare of the majority of Filipinos rather than a few, IBON said. With this, the next few months could yet be the start of a real policy shift and change for the better in the country. It will also be an opportune time for the people to further heighten the clamor on their demands and employ more rigorous efforts for concrete change, said the group.

(The CASER is the approved second substantive agenda of the peace negotiations following the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which was signed in 1998. Next on the negotiations agenda are political and constitutional reforms, ending hostilities and disposition of forces.)