The cost of peace

Apr 8, 2017

The peace negotiating panels from the side of the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the government under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte seem to be on the verge of securing an interim ceasefire accord that would hopefully bring relative calm in the countryside particularly in those areas where the New Peoples Army (NPA) and the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are often engaged in armed confrontation.

That being said even an agreement for the temporary cessation of hostilities between the contending parties has been a difficult and tortuous road where, as has been the case, the government has been handing out compromises left and right. In fact the interim ceasefire accord spawned another side agreement which would be the guiding principle in the implementation of the agrarian reform, and that is the free distribution of land. That is in principle of course, and given the present situation of lands being treasured and valued more than life itself, such a promise would necessarily be easier said than done. No private landowner, even those oligarchs in possession of thousands of hectares of land, would easily be swayed to part with their property without any compensation. If the government would be willing to shoulder the cost of such free distribution then it might also burden the ordinary taxpayer who will have to shell out more taxes to support such a compromise.

It is also a fact of life that in our country those who were previously landless and poor and who have suddenly acquired lands of their own would, as a measure of practicality, either sell their new property or leased it out in the hope of instantly obtaining a cash equivalent. Even those lands that had been given away by the government and granted titles under the concept of ancestral domain or ancestral lands have been the cause of headaches when it has been learned that some owners have sold their properties to someone else even though it is prohibited.

This then is the situation that the government will have to factor in when it decides to implement the free distribution of land under the concept of agrarian reform.

While the country is still agriculturally based more and more individual farmers are surrendering their privilege and right to till their own lands in favor of big corporations who have the capability and technology to farm the soil, and acquiescing to simply being given money in exchange for such surrender.

On another front, those that will be given free lands are either tenants or ordinary farmers who would not have the means to immediately maximize their newly acquired property in terms of agricultural and farming capacity and would still be at the mercy of oligarchs who would offer and be more than willing to buy back the lands, unless the government would again shoulder the expense of providing the necessary farming technology and finance the farming endeavor of the tenant or farmer who has been given the land.

These are factors which the government must confront if it hopes to make good its promise to distribute lands for free under its agrarian reform program.

We can only pray that such compromises being acceded to by the government will bring the lasting peace that is being earnestly pursued by the president and will not turn out to be a lopsided achievement in favor of the NDF and their armed communist cohorts.

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