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Philippine churches want 'people' peace process

Talks between govt, communist 'need local community involvement to better understanding of issues'
Philippine churches want 'people' peace process

Philippine government and rebel peace negotiators review documents during talks held in Norway last October. (Photo by Edwin Espejo) 


Published: January 09, 2017 06:44 AM GMT

An ecumenical church group has called on the Philippine government and communist rebels to let the people "own" the peace process that aims to end a decades old insurgency.

"For lasting peace to be attained, it is important that people have the ownership to the peace talks, not just the [rebels] and the government," said Protestant Bishop Felixberto Calang.

Bishop Calang is convenor of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, an ecumenical formation of Catholic and Protestant church leaders in the country.

It aims to have a "compelling united voice of church leaders, clergy, and laity" that will push the conflicting parties into a continuing substantive peace dialogue.

The group has been calling for the two parties to focus on providing concrete and comprehensive solutions to the primary causes of the conflict in the Philippines.

Philippine government and rebel peace negotiators are set to meet in Rome later this month to resume formal talks that started in Oslo last year.

The talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines resumed in August after they were suspended in 2012 due to disagreements.

Bishop Calang told ucanews.com that the government and the rebels must involve local communities in the peace process so that they will have "a deeper understanding of the situation."

"People must own the peace talks so that they can push it further. If along the way there are some setbacks, the people can continue to urge the government and the [rebels] to continue with the talks until peace is finally achieved," the Protestant church leader said.

Bishop Calang expressed hope that the rebels will abide by a ceasefire, especially in the southern region of Mindanao, in the wake of alleged truce violations by the Philippine military.

"The challenge of the government now is to restrain its forces from committing reported human rights violations, to conduct an investigation and punish the violators," said the bishops.

He said that if the rebels have shown their sincerity in the talks, "the government must also show its sincerity."

The government last week announced that it has finished drafting its version of a proposed agreement on social and economic reforms to be presented to the rebels later this month.

"We are ready to rumble," said chief government peace negotiator Silvestre Bello.

The rebels, meanwhile, announced that the major points they will press during the talks will include agrarian reform, national industrialization, labor rights, and environmental protection.

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