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In an article for Northern Dispatch Nestor Peralta writes about a recent peace conference between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDPF), the Government of the Philippines, and local community members and organizers:
A historic regional workshop on the Peace Process under the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP) was successfully held and attended by more than eighty representatives from the church sector, professionals, politicians, peoples organizations, youth organizations, victims of HRVs and representatives of development NGOs in the Cordillera at Don Bosco Catholic High School, here on November 29-30, 2012.
“Lasting peace will only be achieved by addressing the root cause of war,” this was NDFP representative Rafael Baylosis’ main message to the gathering sponsored by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) and the Ifugao Resource and Development Center (IRDC).
Baylosis’ contention was affirmed with the answer delegates gave to the question of what is an unpeace situation. Most delegates spoke of social and economic situations that are in fact the basis of NDFP’s proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).
The forum was designed to update church leaders and constituents from the different congregations and denominations on the history and prospects of the GPH-NDFP talks; to provide a forum to reflect on and revisit together the concept of peace; and how best to keep alive the ecumenical spirit of working together in addressing the substantive issues that are causing an unpeace situation in our land.
Representatives from the people’s movement were present at the gathering – farmers, youth, victims of HRVs and representatives of development NGOs in the Cordillera.
The participants defined what an unpeace situation is for them.
In Ifugao, unpeace meant economic difficulties such as the high cost of basic products/ commodities, food insecurity, low buying price for farmers’ products. Another was due to socio-cultural aspects like land conflicts, and poverty, lack of basic social services, development aggression, denudation of indigenous culture, commercialization of education, and budget cuts on education. The third factor was militarization and human rights violations.
Benguet defined unpeace as Large Scale Mining, siltation because of mega dams, HRVs and militarization, where the military is becoming the security guard for LSM.
For Kalinga, unpeace was equal to poverty, high interest of loans and low buying price for farmers’ products, tribal war where some because of boundary disputes were attributed to IRA, mining, and militarization.
Abra discussed unpeace to stand for LSM, FPIC processes not followed, rampant HRVs and militarization especially in areas with LSM applications, and warlordism.
As for peace building initiatives, the NDFP gave updates and prospects of the CPP-NPA-NDF regarding the peace negotiation. Unfotunately, representatives of the GPH peace panel was unable to contribute their update because they were absent during the peace forum. The organizers of the activity did not receive any official explanation for the GPH‘s absence.