Legarda on Peace Talks: NDF Agenda is Within Reach

April 12, 2017

Senator Loren Legarda today expressed optimism that the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) would finally come up with a peace accord that is agreeable to both parties and beneficial to the Filipino people.


Legarda said that many of the NDFP’s proposals can already be addressed through existing laws and government programs.


The Chair of the Senate Committees on Finance and Climate Change said that the 2017 national budget and even the 2016 national budget includes programs and provisions aimed towards rural industrialization and development as well as environmental protection, which form part of the NDFP’s social reform agenda.


“I welcome the agreements made during the fourth round of peace talks under the current administration. I am optimistic that the matters discussed and those in the NDFP’s social reform agenda would already be addressed as many of these are covered by current laws and funded in the national budget,” said Legarda.


“I commit to work on a national budget for 2018 that would support and advance the gains of the peace process. That is the least Congress can do,” she added.


The 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) has funding for rural industrialization and development. Under the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program (AFMP), Php3.9 billion is for the Program Beneficiaries Development (PBD) Component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in support of the programs and projects of the AFMP.


Other items in the budget on rural development include the Php2 billion irrigation service fee subsidy and Php1 billion under the Small Business Corporation subsidy for microenterprises.


The 2017 GAA also includes a provision mandating the Department of Agriculture (DA) to increase the resilience of agricultural communities through the implementation of disaster-resilient agricultural infrastructure projects and the distribution and development of seeds, which are optimally adaptive to present and to future climate conditions; while the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) shall provide support to all Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) for them to be attuned to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. The DAR shall also capacitate the ARCs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, ecological solid waste management (ESWM), and sustainable land use such organic farming approaches and the use of water catchments.


Legarda said that the Agri Agra Reform Credit Act of 2009, which she co-authored, requires all banking institutions to set aside 25% of their total loanable funds to agriculture and fisheries credit.


Moreover, post-harvest facilities, irrigation, and farm-to-market roads are funded annually by the National Government through the DA.


On the issue of environmental protection, Legarda said that the country has laws in place protecting our natural resources and ensuring the integrity of our ecosystems. She cited the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Renewable Energy Act, Climate Change Act and the People’s Survival Fund Law, and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.


She said that the 2017 GAA funds the implementation of these laws and contains various provisions also aimed at biodiversity protection.


“All government agencies are mandated to ensure that the protection of biological diversity is integrated in their development programs and projects. We also sought the support of state universities and colleges (SUCs) through area management and mapping and inventory of biodiversity. SUCs shall ensure the protection and enhancement of protected areas located within the vicinity of their campuses, while the DENR should involve SUCs in the National Greening Program through the establishment of clonal nurseries and conduct of forest research,” Legarda explained.


Moreover, local government units (LGUs) are primarily responsible for the implementation and enforcement of environmental laws within their respective jurisdiction.


“Many of the items in NDFP’s social reform agenda can already be addressed through existing laws and programs. We also have several proposed measures in the Senate that would support these programs. I am optimistic that with the sincere efforts of both parties to pursue just and lasting peace, we will see the creation and eventual implementation of a peace agreement between the government and the NDFP,” Legarda concluded.***