The third round of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were concluded in January 2017, with both parties promising to delve deeper into forging an agreement regarding socio-economic reforms that would benefit the Filipino people. The genuine development and progress of the Filipino people should be the main objective of the GRP. This was the reason both the GRP and the NDFP declared a temporary truce in order to give the people breathing space from the ongoing counter-insurgency efforts of the government that has affected millions of lives and left tens of thousands.
Unfortunately, the recent pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte withdrawing from the peace talks unless given “compelling reasons” to return to the negotiating table endangers the advances made during the peace talks. Even before the President’s declaration, five development activists and workers have already lost their lives in defense of the right to development. The GRP’s insistence on continuing its counter-insurgency war against the NDFP again puts at risk millions of lives as well as invaluable efforts poured into socio-economic development projects.
We remind the government that an enabling environment is necessary for pro-people and genuine development to progress rapidly. A just peace is necessary for the advancement of the welfare and interests of the Filipino people. Should Duterte pursue this ill-begotten decision to continue its counter-insurgency war, resources and manpower that should have been poured into services like education and health will again be diverted to the Philippine war machine.
The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network in the Philippines (ASCENT) urges the President to rethink this decision. We call on all peace advocates to exert pressure on the government to go through with its negotiations with the NDFP and achieve a just and lasting peace that will give birth to genuine development. Otherwise, we will expect more hardships and stunted growth for the Filipino people in the years ahead.
Ms. Renmin Crisanta Abraham Vizconde
(Photo by Aldrein Silanga/Manila Today)