Presentation at the Media Forum on Oplan Bayanihan and the Prospects of Peace and Environmental Justice*
Dear Compatriots and Friends,
Thank you for inviting me to be your speaker in this Media Forum on Oplan Bayanihan and the Prospects of Peace and Environmental Justice. I am mindful of your concern about the peace and order and environmental situation in Mindanao and I appreciate your desire to understand the root causes of the problems.
It is a privilege for me to share information and views with the forum participants who come from leading media institutions, youth and student organizations, civil society groups, academe, and church people in various affiliations. I am confident that our forum can shed more light on the issues and that we shall be better able to take them up in our efforts at public education and mobilization.
A. Oplan Bayanihan
1. Nature and Purpose of the Oplan. Like Oplan Bantay Laya, Oplan Bayanihan is a national military plan designed by the US and based on the US Counterinsurgency Guide for the vain purpose of destroying or reducing the New People’s Army to inconsequentiality. But supposedly unlike Oplan Bantay Laya, which had become notorious for gross and systematic violations of human rights, Oplan Bayanihan is designed to be more emphatic on psywar and intelligence work, without lessening combat operations but making them more effective through psywar and intelligence work.
The basic premise of the US Counterinsurgency Guide and Oplan Bayanihan is that a regime can defeat a revolutionary movement by being credited for good governance, being clean on the straight path, and efficiently delivering services to the people. Even if untrue, claims of economic success are important in psywar and far more important than undertaking peace negotiations, which are considered dispensable and which may be undertaken only for the purpose of psywar.
2. The Key Role for Aquino. As campaign financiers in 2010, the biggest foreign and domestic businessmen chose Aquino to become the president and play the key role in Oplan Bayanihan. He enjoyed a honeymoon of more than three years with the bourgeois mass media, which touted him as the paragon of a clean, honest and efficient government and as the miracle maker of an economy growing fast and bubbling with hot money from abroad.
In coordination with the military, the key civilian agencies of Aquino in combining psywar and intelligence work against the revolutionary movement are the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the DWSD Secretary, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Chairman. They are in charge of deploying the dole outs under the Conditional Cash Transfer and the PAMANA funds in a futile attempt to undermine the mass base of the revolutionary forces and get intelligence at the community level about revolutionary fighters, mass activists and their families for the purpose of enticing them with payments, similar to those under the Amnesty and Rehabilitation Program under Cory Aquino and Ramos.
3. Unravelling of the Aquino Regime. The false image of Aquino and his regime as clean, honest and efficient has unravelled. It began when the Napoles pork barrel scam related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund became exposed, uncovering Aquino as the pork barrel king who disburses for his personal gain and political advantage public funds in the Disbursement Acceleration Program and so many other lump-sum appropriations under his sole discretion.
Causing the Aquino regime to further unravel has been the disappearance of calamity funds and the failure of the regime to make pre-disaster preparations and to provide prompt and adequate rescue and relief assistance to the millions of victims of super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). The OPAPP, DWSD and NAPC have become notorious for bureaucratic corruption rather than for promoting peace, aiding people in distress, and fighting poverty.
B. Prospects for Peace
1. Sabotage of the Peace Process. At the very first formal meeting of the GPH and NDFP negotiating panels in Oslo in February 2011, the GPH attacked The Hague Joint Declaration as a document of perpetual division. The NDFP pointed out that said declaration had been the framework agreement making possible more than 10 major agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The GPH proceeded in 2012 to declare the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as inoperative.
It has refused to release the political prisoners protected by the JASIG and the hundreds of political prisoners imprisoned by the Arroyo regime in violation of CARHRIHL. Absolutely ruthless and devoid of any human empathy, it has proceeded to imprison indefinitely more political prisoners. The NDFP cannot trust a regime that does not know how to respect agreements. When offered the possibility of truce and alliance or cooperation on the basis of a general declaration of common intent, the regime demanded surrender under the guise of “unilateral simultaneous indefinite ceasefires”, without reference to the agenda stipulated in The Hague Joint Declaration.
2. NDFP Commitment to Peace Process. The NDFP remains committed to the peace negotiations in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and further agreements, despite the bad experience of negotiating with the Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino regimes. The most important reason of the NDFP for persevering in the peace negotiations is to seek the solution of the basic social, economic, and political problems that victimize the people in their millions.
There is no significant indication whatsoever that the Aquino regime is interested in resuming the formal talks in the peace negotiations with the NDFP. Therefore, what the people need to do is to hasten the removal of the Aquino ruling clique from power and demand the commitment of the next president to resume the formal peace talks.
3. Crisis Requires the Peace Process. For the sake of the Filipino people, the peace negotiations must be resumed, especially in the face of the protracted and worsening crisis of the world capitalist system. The people are already suffering a high rate of unemployment, soaring prices of basic goods and services, decreasing and deteriorating social services, widespread poverty and misery. The illusion of economic growth bloated by hot money will soon burst and the people will suffer far more than they do now.
The successful advance of the peace negotiations is not an impossibility. The peace process is a matter of building on what has been achieved. It has already succeeded in producing a substantive agreement, the CARHRIHL, within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration. It is possible to have a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms, with land reform and national industrialization as the key provisions. It is also possible to have a comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms, with national independence and people’s democracy as the key provisions. On the basis of these substantive agreements, then it is possible to agree comprehensively on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The people must be aroused, organized and mobilized to demand the resumption of peace negotiations.
C. Prospects of Environment Justice
1. Environmental Crisis in Mindanao. Nationwide, we see the wanton plunder of the natural resources and the destruction of the environment. The Philippines now has the second-lowest forest cover in the whole of Southeast Asia. The deforestation had been going on since the Spanish era in Luzon and Visayas, but in the past century has been principally caused by the operations of logging, agribusiness, and mining companies especially in Mindanao.
As of 2003 (the latest year for which official forestry data is available), the total remaining forest cover nationwide has gone down to just below 21 per cent. It is even worse in Mindanao where forest cover is only 15.2 per cent. The resultant loss of forest cover has left rural and urban communities alike more vulnerable to typhoons, constant soil erosion, landslides, heavy silting of rivers and lakes, biodiversity loss and diminished wildlife, and urban overheating.
The use of open pit mining and large amounts of chemicals to accelerate extraction of minerals, including magnetite or black sand mining along the coasts, have aggravated soil erosion and the poisoning of the streams, rivers, lakes and coastal waters at the expense of the peasants and fishermen. The expansion of plantations for the production of bio-ethanol and such products for export like fruit, rubber and palm oil have involved excessive use of chemicals and grave imbalances in land use to the detriment of the environment and staple food production.
2. Responsibility for the Crisis. The foreign multinational firms and their big comprador and high bureaucrat allies are mainly responsible for the destruction of the environment in the Philippines. The Aquino regime is reprehensible for emboldening illegal logging, unrestricted mining and the rapid expansion of plantations. It has consistently upheld the pro-foreign Mining Act of 1995, and has encouraged the influx of big foreign mining firms in Mindanao side by side with the militarization of mining areas. The regime made a show of declaring a so-called total log ban in natural forests. But in reality it has made numerous exemptions and even tolerates outright illegal logging by the AFP-CAFGU and local government units such as in the PICOP and Forest Research Institute areas.
The imperialist powers headed by the US are responsible, both historically and in current volumes, for the carbon emissions that are causing global warming. Natural disasters caused both by extreme weather events such as cyclones, and slow-onset hazards such as coastal flooding, have become more frequent and destructive because of the global warming.
Third world countries like the Philippines, which did not produce the bulk of greenhouse gases, are more vulnerable not only because they are directly in the path of tropical cyclone belts and overheated ocean currents but also because underdevelopment hinders their capacity to cope with disasters. The super typhoon Yolanda was definitely maximized by the warming of the Pacific Ocean.
As shown by the measly outcomes of the recent COP-19 climate talks in Warsaw, the imperialist powers stubbornly resist the Third World demand for them to compensate the victims of the natural disasters generated by global warming. They impose on the world the use of fossil fuel and retain the privilege of emitting carbon dioxide. For these reasons, it is but right for the oppressed peoples of the world to view the issue of climate change and its disastrous impacts as one of environmental injustice imposed by imperialism instead of being just a natural phenomenon that all countries face in equal measure.
It is true that the people, especially the most impoverished sections of the workers and peasants, are desperate enough to eke out a living in the margins at the expense of ecological balance and safe and healthy living conditions. But it is the height of callousness for the Aquino regime to put the blame on them for environmental problems and for living in disaster-prone areas, and even forcibly demolish and relocate their communities on that alibi. The broad masses of the people are the victims, not the culprits, of environmental injustice aggravated by human rights violations.
3. Attainment of Environmental Justice. For so long as the Philippines remains semicolonial and semifeudal, the imperialist powers and the reactionary puppets will continue to subject the Filipino people to environmental injustice. The way for the people to attain environmental justice is to struggle for national independence, democracy, social justice, development and international solidarity with the people of the world. But even now, we should be conscious of the need to stop the ruin of the environment and the wanton outflow of our precious nonrenewable resources, especially mineral ores, and do whatever is possible in this regard.
By gaining national and social liberation, a truly empowered Filipino people can prevent the plunder of natural resources and destruction of the environment. We can ban the imperialist and big comprador-landlord firms from taking away the natural resources as fast as they can while leaving the country more underdeveloped and the masses more impoverished than ever before. It becomes possible to protect and manage our natural resources and use them wisely by processing them for national industrialization and to support agricultural and all-sided rural development on the basis of agrarian reform.
With national industrialization and agrarian reform generating local production and employment many more times greater than what the imperialist and comprador-landlord firms can offer, it also becomes feasible for our people to adopt more ecologically wise methods of production, implement environmental protection, avoid geohazards, and cope with disasters more effectively through mass mobilization.
There is a direct link between the struggle for peace and the struggle for environmental justice. In fact, we have always said that the only basis for a genuine and lasting peace is on the basis of justice brought about by substantial social, economic, and political reforms. Fighting for environmental justice means struggling for such comprehensive reforms, towards a just and lasting peace.
Sponsored by the Apo Sandawa Lumadnung Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC)
and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Probinsya sa Kutabato (KMP-PK)
Kidapawan City, North Cotabato
09 December 2013