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Joma Sison to Gina Lopez: Make a presentation

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Joma Sison to Gina Lopez: Make a presentation

CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison and Environment Secretary Gina Lopez. INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison and Environment Secretary Gina Lopez. INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

LUCENA CITY — The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and an official of the social development arm of the Catholic Church on Friday welcomed a plan by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to work with rebels in mining communities in Agusan del Sur province.

CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison urged Lopez to present her plans to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which has resumed peace talks with the government to end the nearly 50-year-old insurgency in the Philippines.

“It would be fine if the NDFP negotiating panel becomes well informed about the area development plan being proposed by [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] Secretary Gina Lopez,” Sison said in an online interview on Friday.

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“The desire of [Lopez] to work with the [New People’s Army] for peace and development is welcomed by the NDFP,” he said.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, also supported Lopez’s plan, saying it would help push the peace process forward.

“That’s a very good initiative and move in pursuing the peace process while seeking to collaborate with stakeholders for social change,” said Gariguez, noting that the poor are often the victims of environmental injustice.

Asked if there might be any danger in working with the NPA, the priest said: “To lay down their arms is a gesture that the NPAs are agreeable to pursue their cause in a peaceful way.”

“We need to seek and open windows for dialogue and lasting peace,” Gariguez added.

Sison, who serves as NDFP consultant in the peace talks, said the head of the rebel negotiating panel, Fidel Agcaoili, was in Manila for consultations with his counterpart, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

“It is advisable that Fidel converse with [Lopez] so that the NDFP becomes well-informed about the proposed area development plan, gains understanding and acts accordingly,” Sison said.

Speaking at a business forum in Pasay City on Thursday, Lopez disclosed plans to work with the NPA  in developing Agusan del Sur into a model of her agency’s “ecological, economic, educational,” or E3, thrust.

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Agusan del Sur, a province that has heavily benefited from mining and where communist guerrillas are also active, is one of the first areas to be transformed into an E3 zone, according to Lopez.

The department has earmarked P6 billion to develop E3 zones nationwide.

Lopez said the area development plan would soon be presented in a meeting with representatives of two mining firms, the NPA, the military, local governments and other stakeholders.

Sison, who has yet to meet Lopez, encouraged her to attend the fifth round of formal peace talks scheduled for May 26 to June 2, in the Netherlands.

“I have long admired her position and actions on environmental and other issues. I have long paid attention to what she advocates and does,” he said.

He said Lopez’s plan “is directly related to the environment, agrarian reform and rural development now being negotiated under the substantive item Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.” —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO

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TAGS: DENR, Gina Lopez, Joma, Jose Maria Sison, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, NDFP, New People's Army, NPA, Philippine mining
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