Peace talks’ challenge: Social, economic reforms’

AN ACTIVIST congressman yesterday welcomed the government’s formation of its negotiating panel with National Democratic Front (NDF). Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano expressed hopes that peace talks will resume in the soonest possible time.

Mariano said the biggest challenge to President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III is the crafting of an agreement that will include social and economic reforms that will address the roots of the armed conflict.

“We hope the immediate start on the discussions on the next substantive agenda – the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser),” Mariano said.

The Hague Joint Declaration signed by the GRP and the NDFP defines the agenda of the negotiations, namely: human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

Mariano described the Caser as “the meat of the peace negotiations” because it is the agenda that addresses the roots of the armed conflict and basic social problems.

“Crafting an agreement on social and economic reforms, that includes agrarian reform and agricultural development, is the biggest challenge to the Aquino administration,” Mariano said.

“For the peace talks to succeed, the President needs a lot of political will including letting go of his family’s vast landholdings,” says Mariano, referring to Hacienda Luisita, the 6,000-hectare sugar plantation owned by the President’s family.

The lawmaker also called on the GRP to abandon its disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) framework of peace, calling it “a militarist approach” that does not address the roots of the armed conflict.

“A just and lasting peace can only be achieved by addressing the roots of the armed conflict like landlessness, joblessness, extreme hunger and poverty, human rights abuses, and other forms of oppression and exploitation,” he said. D’Jay Lazaro

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