Manila Youth Act Now, a group of students from various colleges and universities and youth from different communities, launched a peace caravan in September, the second in two consecutive years. In spite of a hiatus in the talks, they remain hopeful that peace talks would continue and yield results that would change the current system of education and social services for the youth.
The caravan visits various high schools in Manila to hold a forum on the peace talks and the plight of indigenous peoples, inviting Lumad schoolchildren to talk about their situation. The forum discusses the relevance to the youth of the social and economic reforms agenda, the current substantive agenda on the formal peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The youth organizers of the caravan push for the NDFP proposition for free, accessible, nationalistic education. Such reform should go with the beefing up of funding for the public school system up until the tertiary level, building more schools and doing away with the K-12 program.
The Lumad schoolchildren shared how their own tribes built their own schools with the help of church people and non-government workers. In their alternative schools, they were taught about their own culture, environment, agriculture—all that are relevant for their culture to flourish and their tribes to survive.
The fifth round of talks between the GRP and NDFP was cancelled by the GRP in May this year, even if delegates were already in The Netherlands for the talks. The GRP demanded for a bilateral ceasefire before negotiations on reforms could proceed, while the NDFP demanded that the other side uphold previously signed agreements. Both panels’ working committees on socio and economic reforms that time could have finished with the first of three parts of the agenda, the agrarian reform and rural development, with free land distribution as a core principle.
From the time the talks were cancelled, President Rodrigo Duterte has vehemently talked against continuation of the talks, up until before the big protest rally against tyranny and fascism held last September 21. Duterte’s side has yet to issue a formal notice of cancellation of talks.
The peace caravan in Manila has visited Lakandula High School, Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Vocational High School, Antonio Villegas Vocational High School, Florentino Torres High School, T. Paez Integrated School, Emilio Aguinaldo Integrated School and Tondo High School. They would still visit Ramon Magsasaysay High School, Esteban Abada High School, Manuel L. Quezon High School, Claro M. Recto High School and Manuel Roxas High School among others.