Peace is not merely the absence of armed conflict. It is
an environment where individuals and communities are able to fully
develop their potentials and progress, freely exercising their rights
with due regard for the rights of others, and equally mindful of
their responsibilities. It is a state where there is no government
graft and corruption; where the people are given their due; where
there is growth, progress and sustainable development; where there is
alleviation of the poor living conditions of the people; where
justice, equity, freedom and truth reign.
This definition of peace is based on the outcome of a national public consultation in the Philippines organized by the former National Unification Commission, a government-created body.
It is clear from this formulation that there cannot be peace unless the causes of the ills of society (that of the Philippines in this case) are addressed, namely: maldevelopment (few rich, massive poverty), human rights abuses, ineffective government, and environmental degradation.
It is thus correct to have a comprehensive peace process in order to arrive at a state of peace in the Philippine context where armed conflicts had vigorously raged for years. 55,471 soldiers, government officials, members of the armed opposition and innocent civilians have died from 1973 to 1992. 1,832 persons are missing. 1.5 million people have been displaced over the two-decade conflicts. Damage to crops and properties since 1982 is estimated to have reached around 55 million US dollars. *And these are not the final figures.
The Philippine government launched a two-pronged process to attain peace: comprehensive peace process and the social reform agenda. Peace talks are on-going as far as the Communist Party of the Philippines-New PeopleO~s Army-National Democratic Front (with one faction at least) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Peace agreements had been sealed with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement-Young Officers Union-ALTAS (the military rebel group). The social reform agenda is the package of interventions which the government will pursue to ensure the welfare and early integration of disadvantaged groups into the political and economic mainstream. It is meant to address four dimensions of poverty: social equity, economic growth, ecological balance, and responsible and responsive governance. Executive orders have been issued to implement some of the demands of the peopleO~s organizations and non-governmental organizations which participated in national conferences organized by the government. *
It should be noted that these initiatives on peace fall within the over-all economic development framework of the Philippine government known as Philippines 2000! It is the blueprint for the Philippines to reach the so-called NIC-hood by the turn of the century. A tall order indeed.
With an economic development program significantly anchored on foreign investment, rapid and simultaneous implementation of various projects (energy, transportation, industrial-residential-commercial purposes) are being undertaken. With the active involvement of the private business sector (both domestic and foreign) in all these projects, can social reform agenda compete? Will there be social infrastructures that can help realize the principle of people empowerment in development before and during the implementation of the projects? Will the government be able to address the social inequities that result from the negative effects of rapid private-led development? In sum, will business wait for the social reform agenda?
These are questions begging for answers.
In the National Anti-Poverty Summit held in March 1996, recommendations from the farmers and fisherfolk sectors call for review/revision of the main economic development plan (Philippines 2000!) of the government because it puts at risk their economic security, the ecological balance, and their right to participate in the processes of development.
There is a clear statement from the non-governmental and people's organizations about the cost of the type of development that the government espouses. In their view the essential goal of social reform agenda, the very tool for peace, will be subverted by the well-resourced private-led development program unless the government steps in and faithfully follow the definition of peace it has agreed to.
The idea of lasting, just and comprehensive peace is difficult to attain and yet it is the only option that should be pursued.