“Who would not want national sovereignty? Who would not want land reform…that would ensure food security? Who would not want a patriotic, progressive culture?
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said they would push for socio-economic reforms in the upcoming negotiations with the incoming Rodrigo Duterte administration.
According to the Hague Joint Declaration signed by both parties in 1992, an agreement on socio-economic reforms is the next substantive agenda item in the GPH-NDFP peace talks. The first, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), was signed in March 1998.
Speaking in a press conference, June 2, NDFP consultant Randall Echanis said the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) is the meat of the negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP.
Echanis, a member of the NDFP’s reciprocal working committee on Caser, said genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization are essential in economic development.
“We have to liberate the farmers who comprise the majority of the population from feudal bondage before we can achieve development,” Echanis told the media in Filipino.
Via Skype, Jose Maria Sison, NDFP chief political consultant, said Duterte could choose to be like Salvador Allende, noting that Duterte declared himself to be a socialist.
Allende served as president of Chile from 1970 to 1973. He implemented key economic reforms for the poor.
“If there’s political will, change could happen,” Sison said.
Sison noted that the NDFP’s proposals for agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization are “bourgeois democratic reforms” from the classic development of industrialized countries.
“Who would not want national sovereignty? Who would not want land reform…that would ensure food security? Who would not want a patriotic, progressive culture? These are the NDFP programs with President-elect Duterte,” Sison said.
Sison welcomed the appointment of Rafael Mariano, chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), as agrarian reform secretary. He said Mariano could initiate the implementation of a genuine agrarian reform, starting with the Hacienda Luisita.
Mariano already said the distribution of land to Hacienda Luisita farmer beneficiaries would be among his priorities.
“The rule of the oligarchs must end,” Sison said.
Sison acknowledged that Duterte’s appointees in economic positions favor neoliberal economic policy. He said that even within the International Monetary Fund (IMF), there are criticisms that the neoliberal policy in the last four decades exacerbated the economic crisis.
“There should be changes in policy for the benefit of the Filipino people,” Sison said.
Asked about Duterte’s previous pronouncement that he is open to lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of Philippine corporations, Agcaoili said they are opposed to it. During the campaign period, Duterte said he is open to allowing foreigners to lease land in the Philippines for 40 years that could be renewed for another 40 years. He added he is comfortable with a 70 to 30 percent arrangement in favor of foreign businessmen.
Under the Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, foreign ownership of property is restricted to a 40 percent baseline share.
“We will say our piece against it. In the negotiations, we will put forward our position and it’s up to him to respond,” Agcaoili said.
Agcaoili said lifting the cap on foreign investments would not help industrialize the country.
Sison said they would not agree to any “unreasonable and unjust” demand for surrender of revolutionary forces. He said a longer ceasefire is possible only after both parties agree upon substantial agreements that would benefit the Filipino people.
“Revolutionary forces are fighting not just to get crumbs from government but for sovereignty and national development, independence from foreign domination and from the greed of the oligarchs,” Sison said.
Under Aquino, Echanis said both parties presented their drafts on Caser in 2011 but the talks did not progress. Agcaoili said the Aquino administration “wrongfully labeled agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization as ideologically-charged demands.”
“They were not studying history,” Agcaoili said. “These are in fact bourgeois democratic reforms implemented by industrialized countries like Japan, Korea and European countries.”
Echanis attributed the failure of signing Caser to the counterinsurgency program of the Aquino administration. “It was not interested in addressing the roots of the armed conflict but was only after the surrender of revolutionary forces.”