Greens urge Reds and Duterte gov’t to persevere in peace talks,
accelerate negotiations on environmental reforms

Kalikasan PNE Press Statement

10 February 2017

We environmental advocates from the Kalikasan People’s Network for the
Environment (Kalikasan PNE) join the growing clamour of peace advocates
urging the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the
revolutionary forces of the National Democratic Front (NDF) to return to
the peace negotiations table, especially with the upcoming round of
talks scheduled for April aimed at forging unities between the two
parties in instituting comprehensive environmental reforms.

It is the polluters and plunderers who will rejoice over the termination
of the peace talks. The upcoming round of talks over the Comprehensive
Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) was expected to produce
a ground-breaking proposed program that would strengthen environmental
regulations, prohibit ecologically destructive practices, and ensure
judicious planning and management in the utilization of our natural
resources.

We urge the Duterte administration to tune out the mad howls of the
military’s dogs of war and listen to the people’s cries for peace and
justice. It is the environment defenders and other ordinary people who
will suffer from the military’s all-out war. In fact, we have monitored
since 2001 at least 112 environment-related killings of which 48 percent
were suspectedly perpetrated by military or paramilitary elements.

Negotiations on environmental reforms

In the third and latest round of peace talks held in Rome, Italy last
January 19 to 25, the GRP and NDF formally commenced negotiations over
the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER),
which aims to address the roots of the armed conflict by instituting
solutions for poverty, landlessness, state neglect, and other social and
economic injustices in which the revolutionary movement’s almost five
decades of civil war is rooted.

In the joint statement released by the peace panels of the GRP and the
NDF after the third round of talks last January 25, both parties
announced that the next round will begin discussing environmental
provisions alongside an accelerated track of negotiations. In the NDF
CASER draft, the only version of the agreement publicly available, a
whole section is dedicated on environmental protection, rehabilitation
and compensation.

The CASER is the most comprehensive environmental roadmap to date. It
proposes a national industrialization program that ensures efficient
planning and management of extractive and other environmentally critical
industries. It obliges companies to ensure rehabilitation and
compensation for communities affected by adverse environmental impacts
and rendered extremely vulnerable to climate change.

The CASER also affirms important policy proposals such as the
establishment of a national land use policy, the stricter prohibition of
destructive activities such as open pit mining and toxic waste dumping,
and more stringent regulations on mining, fisheries, and biodiversity.
On the other hand, it aims to reverse existing globalization policies
that are patently anti-people and anti-environment.

Attacks against environment defenders

We note that the termination of peace talks between the GRP and NDF’s
forces on the ground were triggered by the unceasing military operations
and other acts of sabotage by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
throughout the ceasefire period, and environment defenders have been
targets of these acts of aggression.

A complaint lodged by rights group Karapatan before the two peace panels
in the last round of negotiations detailed how the AFP’s unabated
military operations and other government-instigated human rights
violations during the ceasefire period affected no less than 28,890
victims. The NDF cited the continuing militarization and the non-release
of 400 unjustly detained political prisoners in their termination of
their unilateral ceasefire.

Environment defenders clearly suffered from this utterly condemnable
militarization. At least 9 of the 11 cases of environment-related
killings we have monitored under the Duterte regime followed to the dot
the ‘riding-in-tandem’ modus operandi that was a signature of the past
two counter insurgency programs of the AFP.

A striking example is case of Jimmy Saypan, an indigenous Lumad and
peasant leader who was the secretary-general of the Compostela Farmers
Association (CFA), was murdered by a riding-in-tandem suspected to hail
from the 66th Infantry Battalion last October 10, 2016. Prior to the
killing, Saypan and other leaders of CFA were subjected to months of
systemic harassment and vilification by the AFP.

We assert that the solution to these problems is more vigorous and
earnest talks on the negotiating table, and not the termination of the
talks. Both peace panels should mobilize the joint human rights
monitoring body to investigate all filed cases of violations. Nothing
can be more important than pushing for the much-needed social, economic,
and environmental reforms that the Filipino people have long been
aspiring for.#

National Secretariat
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net | Site:
www.kalikasan.net