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Legarda Supports Resumption of Peace Talks, Says NDFP’s Socio-Economic Reform Agenda Within Reach

April 11, 2018

Senator Loren Legarda today expressed anew her support for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) following President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement that he would resume peace talks but with a two-month deadline.

“I welcome the President’s decision to go back once again to the negotiating table with the NDFP. President Duterte has a solid and comprehensive vision for peace and he has been willing to back it up with the strongest political will. I hope that we can all support the resumption of the peace talks and that both sides would work on this double time to reach the deadline. After all, the government and the NDFP have been in negotiation for decades and there are already draft agreements. I am sure both sides can come up with agreements that are acceptable to everyone and beneficial to the Filipino people,” said Legarda, who, along with Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, is a consultant of the government panel for the peace talks with the NDFP.

Legarda said that one of the important agreements to be finalized is the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which is considered the ‘heart and soul’ of the peace talks.

The NDFP’s proposed CASER contains provisions on various socio-economic concerns—agrarian reform and rural development; national industrialization and economic development; environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation; rights of the working people; promoting patriotic, progressive and pro-people culture; recognition of ancestral lands and territories of national minorities; and ensuring economic sovereignty for national development through foreign economic and trade relations, financial, monetary and fiscal policies, and social and economic planning.

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

On agrarian reform and rural development, we have the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act (RA 10000), which requires all banking institutions to set aside 25% of their total loanable funds to agriculture and fisheries credit; the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (RA 10659); An Act Amending the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, to prevent illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing (RA 10654); Free Irrigation Services Act (RA 10969); and Barangay Livelihood and Skills Training Act (RA 9509).

Under the 2018 national budget, there is Php1.8 Billion under the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF); Php21 Million for DA Seed Fund; Php53 Billion for Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program (AFMP) under DA, supplemented by Php47 Billion lodged under various implementing agencies; and Php2.6 Billion irrigation fee subsidy for small farmers under the National Irrigation Authority (NIA).

For national industrialization and economic development, there are already existing laws such as the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (RA 9501), the Green Jobs Act (RA 10771), Amended Public Employment Service Office Act (RA 10691), Barangay Kabuhayan Act (RA 9509), and Microfinance NGOs Act (RA 10693) to support MSMEs and spur development in the countryside.

                                                            

Government support can also be had through the various programs of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which has Php520.902 Million for the implementation of MSME Development Plan, Php514.579 Million for Negosyo Centers, Php1 Billion for Shared Service Facilities (SSF), and Php1 Billion for Small Business Corporation-Pondo para sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso, among others.

For livelihood opportunities for indigent Filipinos and those who need temporary assistance due to unemployment or retrenchment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) with funding of Php5.708 Billion; the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) TUPAD or Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program and Government Internship Program (GIP) has funding worth Php2.306 Billion; while the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has Php2.784 Billion for Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP), Php933 Million for Special Training for Employment Program (STEP), and Php100 Million for the implementation of community-based and livelihood programs under the Brgy. Livelihood and Skills Training Act.

Meanwhile, to ensure economic sovereignty for national development, aside from the government’s solid macroeconomic policies that have been contributing to higher growth rate and influx of investments in the country both from local and foreign investors, several treaties have been ratified to further boost the Philippines’ trade relations with other countries.

Among these treaties are the avoidance of double taxation agreements; the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO), which aims to contribute to securing the economic and financial stability of the ASEAN through the conduct of regional economic surveillance and by supporting the implementation of the regional financial arrangement; the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which broadens the country’s infrastructure funding sources, thus, helping achieve its growth targets; and the Philippines’ Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States, which covers trade in goods, trade in services, investment, competition, the protection of intellectual property rights, government procurement, and trade and sustainable development.

“We want to achieve genuine and lasting peace, which is why we have been working on laws that would truly benefit the people. We craft the annual national budget bearing in mind both the national growth and the progress of every Filipino. As I support the resumption of the peace talks, I also commit to continue working on measures, including the national budget, that would support and advance the gains of the peace process,” Legarda concluded.