MAY BERDE SA PULA | Group urges Duterte to pursue green talks with Reds

April 21, 2017 - 2:50 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network (Kalikasan-PNE) is urging President Rodrigo Duterte to take the cue from Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez in stepping up efforts in pursuing “green talks” with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

In a statement Thursday, the environmental group said the NDFP and the DENR could craft a common environmental reform agenda, with its foundation rooted from Lopez’s advocacies towards mining.

“Sec. Lopez’ historic crusade against big mining, destructive projects, their apologists in government, and ultimately her introspection on the rhymes and reasons of revolution can be the foundation of a common program for environmental protection and rehabilitation towards just and lasting peace that the Duterte administration and the NDFP can agree upon and co-implement,” said Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator.

Bautista said priority environmental reforms – such as the enforcement of closures and suspension of mining firms, crackdown on illegal and large-scale fish pens, and the rehabilitation of affected ecosystems – could be implemented by both parties even before the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms or CASER.

“Earth Day will be the opportune time for President Duterte to announce a national initiative for just peace and a healthful environment to scale up Sec. Lopez’ efforts to cooperate with the NDFP in establishing Ecological, Economic and Educational (E3) zone in affected communities,” Bautista said.

Moreover, Kalikasan PNE asked Duterte to implement more environmental programs such as the rehabilitation of marine ecosystems, ‘rainforestation’ of denuded forests, providing justice to slain environmentalists and victims of environmental tragedies, and job security with additional benefits to government environmental workers.

They likewise urged Duterte and Lopez to give importance to the active participation of people’s organizations and social movements in pushing for environmental reforms and ecological protection.

They also encouraged the President to continue supporting public officials who were pro-people and pro-environment such as Lopez, Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, and Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano.

The DENR chief on Wednesday disclosed her plan to work with communist rebels in helping mining communities in certain areas in Mindanao where the New People’s Army (NPA) units were based.

“What I’ve seen with the NPA, they just really want to get people out of poverty, they’re really not bad people,” Lopez said during a business forum.

Formal peace talks resumed early April after a ceasefire breakdown between the government and the communist rebels. Among the major topics to discussed during the talks was the CASER, considered by the Left as the “heart and soul of the peace negotiations.”

If approved and implemented, the CASER would mandate both parties to implement social and economic reform programs on land reform, rural development, national industrialization and economic development, and environmental protection and rehabilitation, among others.