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.

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.

It is the environment defenders and other ordinary people who will suffer from all-out war. 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 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.

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.

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.

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.--Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment