NPA vows more attacks vs. big firms destroying environment

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 Feb) – The New People’s Army (NPA) will stage more attacks against big companies that contributed to environmental destruction, an official of the National Democratic Front (NDF) said.


Randall Echanis, of the NDF’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reform, aired the warning in a peace forum Monday in Davao City organized by the Sowing the Seeds of Peace and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform.


Echanis’ warning came six days after the NPA raided the compound of Del Monte Philippines in Manolo Fortich town Bukidnon resulting in the death of a company security guard and the wounding of two others.


“These companies have been occupying thousands of hectares of lands for so long, they benefited a lot from exploiting the land, the farmers and farm workers in the midst of landlessness apart from environmental destruction, use of aerial spraying and massive land use conversion,” he said.


The NDF official alleged that the presence of these companies worsened the impact of typhoon Sendong in December 2011.


Calling the attack a “legitimate exercise of the NDF’s political authority, Echanis said they had warned big logging, mining and agribusiness companies not to engage in land-grabbing and environmental destruction.”


At the forum, Echanis presented the NDF’s draft on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (Caser).


Caser is the second agenda in the peace talks between the NDF and the Government of the Philippines. The first accord signed by both parties was the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl).


In an interview, Echanis said discussing the Caser was needed to address the situation of victims of calamities like storms Sendong and Pablo.


He cited that the NDF’s draft Caser contains clear provisions on the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of the environment.


“The NDF well understood that big companies of mining, logging and plantations are responsible in damaging our lands and denuding our forests which resulted to flood especially here in Mindanao,” he added.


“We will not allow these destructive big companies that destroy both the environment and the livelihood of the people.”


Echanis said the NDF’s draft Caser also provides for “genuine land reform” that will abolish big landholdings and plantation.”


He said government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program has failed to address landlessness.


He blamed the delays in the discussion of the Caser since 1998 on government’s “lack of seriousness” to pursue the peace talks and alleged violations of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees which was approved in 1995.


Echanis cited the arrest and detention of 14 so-called NDF consultants as among the obstacles to the resumption of the talks.


The NDF and the Philippine government have engaged in peace talks since 1986. Aside from the Carhrihl and the unfinished Caser, the two parties agreed in 1992 to also tackle political and electoral reforms and disposition of forces. (Lorie Ann Cascaro / MindaNews)