WE environmental advocates from the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) join the growing clamour of peace advocates urging the government and 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.

In the third and latest round of peace talks held in Rome, Italy last Jan. 19 to 25, the government and NDF formally commenced negotiations over 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, both parties announced that the next round of talks 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.

We note that the termination of peace talks between the government 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 throughout the ceasefire period, and environment defenders have been targets of these acts of aggression.--National Secretariat, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment