“This is the meat of the problem, the basic suffering of the people, which is connected to their stomach.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said they will forward proposals to resolve the roots of poverty and the country’s economic backwardness in the second round of talks with government in Oslo, Norway from Oct. 6 to 10.
This round’s GRP-NDFP talks will tackle proposals for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser), which is expected to be “a bit contentious.” The NDFP proposal involves radical reforms, such as breaking land monopoly and the domination in industries by private and foreign companies, reversal of decades-old exploitative laws and economic policies, and renegotiation of the country’s foreign debt.
In a press conference on Sept. 23, members of the NDFP reciprocal working committee on social and economic reforms (NDFP-RWC-SER) said their proposed objectives for Caser are:
1. Carry out genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization
2. Advance the rights of exploited, oppressed, discriminated and disadvantaged sectors
3. Uphold economic sovereignty
4. Conserve the national patrimony and protect the environment.
These are part of the 12-point NDFP program, which the revolutionary movement has been implementing in the past four decades in its revolutionary territories.
“This is the meat of the problem, the basic suffering of the people, which is connected to their stomach,” said Alan Jazmines, vice chairperson of the NDFP reciprocal working committee on social and economic reforms (NDFP-RWC-SER).
The two parties exchanged their “proposed framework and outline” for Caser earlier this week.
“We anticipate a spirited and interesting discussion on the frameworks, and at the same time expect it to be a bit contentious,” said Randall Echanis, NDFP-RWC-SER member, in a statement.
Under the NDFP’s proposed Caser, all agricultural lands and means of production shall be expropriated, but compensation will only be given to landlords who spoused progressive views toward land reform. Land shall be distributed free to tillers, who will be encouraged to form peasant cooperatives.
Jazmines said the main basis for the revolutionary movement’s growth and the development of its political and socio-economic program is the power gained by organizing peasants who compose majority of the population, and implementing land reform, or “agrarian revolution.”
Renato Boleros, another peace consultant, said they have been implementing agrarian revolution for decades in the countryside, as a revolutionary government is established from the level of the village up to the province. Its minimum program involves lowering of land rent, usury rates and prices of farm inputs, raising farm workers’ wages, increasing farm production through cooperative farming. Its maximum program aims for free land distribution.
In Mindanao, Loida Magpatoc said this maximum program has been implemented in former logging areas, where destructive companies were driven out by the New People’s Army (NPA). Political organs of power led the distribution of lands, and management of areas, whether for agriculture or for reforestation. The revolutionary government also resolves cases of conflict between landless settlers and peasants, disputes in ancestral land claims.
The implementation of agrarian revolution brings forth livelihood, increased productivity, unity and cooperation, and even raises the standard of living in the revolutionary territories, said consultant Jaime Soledad. But when state forces learn of such gains, they subject the people to military attacks.
In Leyte, as in other areas, soldiers destroy cooperative stores, fishponds and farm equipment that people acquired through their revolutionary efforts. Worse, families and communities were massacred, Soledad said.
The NDFP proposal for Caser aims for “maximum self-sufficiency” in industrial production of the country’s needs, harnessing the raw natural resources and skilled labor.
“We can stand on our own,”said another NDFP-RWC-SER member, Ed Villegas. He said the NDFP draft had identified 19 industries that should be controlled by government, including oil, mining and steel.
He lamented that the Philippines is rich in resources and people, but these are being exploited by other countries and big businesses. The country had been tied up to importing goods instead of manufacturing it locally, and exporting labor and raw natural resources.
“Bakit dayuhan nagkokontrol sa mineral, aber?…We need to be nationalistic. If we don’t act now, our resources will soon be wiped out,” Villegas said.
He cited that skilled Filipino workers dominate the oil industry in the Middle East, and they can come home to help run the country’s own oil rigs under national industrialization. The country is also the fourth top builder of ships, but the industry is controlled by Koreans and Japanese, he noted.
“Shipping industry will support the fishing industry and other commercial activities,” Villegas said.
Labor organizer and consultant Adel Silva said national industrialization can reverse the worsening state of the economy, unemployment and consequently, the exodus of OFWs, now estimated at 15 million, or 15 percent of the population.
Under national industrialization, natural resources will be utilized for industries, jobs will be created, and many opportunities for economic growth will be created.
Villegas said resources for national industrialization will come from various government funds, such as foreign debt payment and the lump sum “pork barrel” fund in the national budget. Government funds will also be maximized when corruption is finally stopped.
A long process
Silva said President Duterte’s strong assertion of Philippine independence has deserved the NDFP’s “respect and praise.” Duterte’s firm stand is needed for government to implement Caser, as it entails breaking foreign domination in Philippine economy.
“We are a country that can stand on our own,” Silva said. “We will chart our path of independent development, relating to other countries on mutually beneficial grounds.”
Silva added that the Philippines can seek alliance and trade relations with countries, like Venezuela to source oil supply.
Villegas brushed off fears that the country will become “isolationist” and be broken off from the “global village.” He said these are concepts propped up by those who dominate countries like the Philippines and are against its self-sustained development.
“North Korea: it barely has natural resources, and they isolated it. But it built a nuclear weapon, and now the US is so afraid,” Villegas said.
Jazmines said they anticipate a long process in the implementation of these fundamental socio-economic reforms, but radical reforms are needed to reverse worsening poverty. Although people can get jobs abroad or work at home in industries like business process outsourcing (BPO) and electronics, he said, these are not enough.
“We cannot continue with superficial solutions. There will be major confrontation, but we look at it as a process,” Jazmines said.
Echanis said the NDFP proposal for Caser’s implementation “shall be joint and separate.” In entering into the agreement, the government will be guided by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, while the NDFP, by its Program for a People’s Democratic Government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Guide for Establishing the People’s Democratic Government.
The NDFP proposal also refers to “universally accepted principles and instruments of international law,” such as the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the 1948 International Labor Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.