GRP panel kicks off regional forum on peace in Cordillera

GRP panel kicks off regional forum on peace

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GRP panel kicks off regional forum on peace

Friday, May 19, 2017

THE peace negotiating panel of the government kicked off its regional consultations in the Cordillera region this week.

Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace panel member Hernani Braganza said they want to listen to the different stakeholders in the regions and get inputs which will be incorporated to the paper of the government panel in the succeeding rounds of negotiation.

The fifth round of talks which is scheduled next month in Norway, will talk on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser) and the joint ceasefire in preparation.

“The regional consultation is important to us because we can get inputs on reforms on how to govern the negotiations,” he said.

He said in going around the regions of the country, government panelists can also validate information relating to the implementation of Caser aside from inputs on the lasting ceasefire.

They will also obtain information on the regions’ potentials and see existing mechanisms on how the local government units can participate in the peace process and the Caser through their inputs.

Cordillera region, Braganza said, is a very important source of information considering almost all of the topics in the Caser will directly affect the mountain region.

Among the topics in the Caser includes agrarian reform, environmental protection, rights of the indigenous peoples, women and gender equality, social services, foreign economy and trade relations, monetary and fiscal adequacy as well as shared objectives.

“We want a long lasting ceasefire which will end the rebellion and the hostilities,” Braganza said.

The former agrarian reform secretary said the consultation-workshop in Baguio City is the first under the Regional Development Council and Regional Peace and Order Council (RDC-RPOC) mechanism and will be replicated in other regions in between formal rounds of negotiations abroad.

“We are starting in the Cordillera and go down to the other regions to get inputs on lasting peace,” he said.

Roberto Ador, chairman of the committee on Caser, said the talks on the topic started as far back as 15 years ago during the term of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had agreed to pursue to be able to reach a lasting peace with the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People's Army and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Ador agreed the topics on mining, environmental protection, indigenous peoples rights, agrarian reform, resource utilization, and human rights are important in the Cordillera, thus it is a must to hear the region’s stakeholders in relation to the final drafting of the Caser agreement.

“We want to get inputs on how the local government units (LGU) can be partners in reform and we want to look for existing mechanism on how LGUs can participate in the enforcement, implementation and delivery of services relating to Caser," Ador said.

Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan during the program said the GRP panel’s initiative to go around the regions is proof of the effort of the Duterte administration to include all sectors in the negotiations.

“Socio–economic reforms should not only focus on members of the left community which are directly a party to the negotiations but also the people who need to receive services.”

People in the community are enticed to join the left wing because of neglect, which is the root cause of insurgency, he said.

The mayor said, everybody here agrees that “we support the ceasefire as all Filipinos gear for peace and unity with the CPP-NPA-NDF.”

The government and the NDF previously conducted four rounds of formal peace negotiations under the term of President Duterte and achieved breakthroughs in Caser discussions, ceasefire agreement, and implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The GRP panel members present during the press conference said “At the moment, discussions are being conducted extensively on Caser since forging an agreement on social and economic reforms is acknowledged by parties (to the negotiation) to be central to reaching unity and peace.

They added, “we will also focus on the joint ceasefire since forging a bilateral ceasefire is considered to be of parallel importance to provide enabling environment for reforms to take place.” (PNA)

Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on May 20, 2017.

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