De Oro bishop: Revive peace talks to protect environment
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A Church leader who heads the river basin council here called for peace talks to resume between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) if only to protect the lumad, who are considered as guardians of the forest
Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said tribal communities whose lives were intricately intertwined with the forests usually bear the brunt of the conflict.
The Church leader remained optimistic that the talks could still resume despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated pronouncement that his administration had given up on the talks, leading to its collapse.
“I think that we should call for the resumption of the peace talks so that our (efforts to protect) the environment shall also be protected more thoroughly,” said Ledesma, who chairs the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council.
“It is imperative that we involve our lumad communities living in conflict zones where reports of environmental degradation are also happening,” he said.
The Cagayan de Oro River Basin Council has been at the forefront of moves to protect the surviving rainforests in the city’s watershed areas and to plant trees in areas devastated by decades of logging.
“Talks (should) be revived as it would mean empowering the tribal communities, the protectors of the environment, but who are caught in the middle of conflict,” he said.
Ledesma said the government should also work to address poverty and lack of basic services in hinterland villages.
He said he was still hopeful that Duterte would give peace another chance.
The talks were on the brink of success and an agreement on socio-economic reforms when Duterte called it off claiming that communist rebels were demanding power-sharing which he said was unconstitutional.
Duterte instead ordered an all-out war which also targeted noncombatant militants./TSB
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