Acid test of peace: socioeconomic reforms
Four topics to attain peace were laid out in “The Hague Declaration” executed by the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the communist rebels in 1992. Of the four, only the first — human rights and international humanitarian law — has been finished.
As promised last Sunday, I will now take up the second: socioeconomic reforms. Talks on this topic bogged down after the document on the first — titled “Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” — was signed 20 years ago on March 16, 1998.
Happily, the formal talks on these tough reform proposals may resume on June 28. According to Ateneo Law Dean Sedfrey Candelaria in his recent public lecture as one of the holders of the “Chief Justice Panganiban Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity,” this is the most crucial part of the peace process. To quote him, “A just and lasting peace could be reached if the root causes of the armed conflict could be addressed and eliminated. The Caser [Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms]… is the acid test.”
The communist proposals to address these root causes were lengthily discussed by Candelaria. In my limited space, let me sum up some of these proposals to show the daunting tasks facing the GRP negotiators led by Secretary Jesus Dureza:
On agrarian reform and rural industrialization. Land suitable for agriculture but used as military bases, tourism projects and golf courses should be expropriated. Lease and leaseback arrangements with foreign corporations shall be terminated, while plantations operated on leased land shall be publicly owned or managed by corporations of the farm workers.
The conversion of agricultural land devoted to food production shall be prohibited, and policies allowing conversion of agricultural lands into industrial estates, urban housing subdivisions, tourist resorts and golf courses shall be suspended, reviewed and, as necessary, reversed.
The government shall amend, suspend or terminate, as applicable, all bilateral investment treaties, and bilateral and regional free trade agreements.
On national industrialization. Direct investments and other profit-making assets of US, Japanese and other foreign monopoly capitalists in vital and strategic industries shall be expropriated and nationalized. Cartels and commercial operations of big compradors and bureaucrat capitalists shall be dismantled and their assets expropriated. The national bourgeoisie and smaller private owners of the means of production, including micro, small and medium enterprises, shall be given support. The retail industry shall be 100-percent Filipino.
On environment protection. The US must be accountable for the pollution and destruction of land, water and other resources, and the environment in the former US military bases. Instead of exported raw, mineral resources shall be processed domestically up to the secondary and tertiary stages of industrial production.
On sectoral rights. Workers shall be guaranteed a national minimum wage indexed to the rising cost of living. The no-union, no-strike policy in special economic zones, export processing zones and other economic enclaves shall be prohibited. Public sector unions shall have the right to strike. All state exactions and fees on Filipino overseas workers should be stopped.
No discrimination against gays and lesbians. Divorce to end unhappy and failed marriages shall be legalized. Free education up to the tertiary and vocational levels and free health services at the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare levels are to be provided.
On international economic relations. Liberalization, privatization and deregulation policies dictated by dominant capitalist countries and by their multilateral agencies like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and World Trade Organization shall be rejected.
Foreign equity shall not exceed 40 percent in any enterprise. VAT and excise taxes on basic goods shall be abolished, while taxes on luxury goods increased. Public foreign debt shall be reexamined to determine which are to be cancelled, frozen, renegotiated or litigated.
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