Business sector wants slot gov’t in peace panel, says NEDA

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 February) — The business sector in the region is pushing for representation in the government panel in peace talks with the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF), a National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) official said.

Miguel Herrera, NEDA-XI Plans and Policy Formulation director, said the businessmen are asking for what they called a more inclusive peace process.

The peace process between the government and NDF is set to resume this month in Oslo, Norway.

“The business sector wants all major sectors of society to be represented in the government panel,” said Herrera shortly after the regional consultations on the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan for 201-2016.

Herrera said the business sector believes “peace and order is very vital in the economic development in the region” and that it wants “to fast-track the peace process”.

In November last year, President Benigno Aquino III formed the new government peace panel with lawyer Alexander A. Padilla as chair.

The other members of the panel are human rights lawyer Pablito Sanidad, women and labor rights advocate Jurgette Honculada, and indigenous people’s rights advocate Ednar Dayanghirang.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quinto-Deles said Padilla’s appointment “signals the President’s resolve in restarting the peace process that is aimed towards addressing the root causes of the armed conflict and forging a political settlement.”

Business leaders in this city had expressed concern over the reported attacks by communist rebels on business establishments. They said these would adversely affect the business climate and drive away investments.

Meanwhile, Ariel Casilao, regional coordinator of Bayan Muna for Southern Mindanao said civilians will continue to bear the brunt of the armed conflict in the region unless the peace talks between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) will resume,.

”Southern Mindanao is now host to 20 full-sized battalions, and four infantry brigades, two of them in Compostela Valley alone,” Casilao said.

“Compostela Valley, where big mining companies operate, has the country’s largest concentration of troops,” he said

Karapatan’s yearend report tallied 92 cases of forcible displacement, affecting 4,724 families or approximately 25,000 people in Southern Mindanao alone. The report also pointed out the rising number of alleged human rights violations in areas where there is heavy deployment of troops.

The group documented 406 cases of harassment, threat and intimidation in the last six months of the Arroyo administration, affecting 3,311 families or 19,069 people. During the first six months of the Aquino administration, similar cases decreased to 37, affecting 874 families or 8,104 people. (Rico Biliran/MindaNews)