PEACETALK: Let us be steadfast in our peace work

(Closing statement of Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, concurrent chari fo the government peace panel for peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front, on 26 August 2016 in Oslo, Norway)

We conclude today our first round of talks with much vigor to accomplish the bigger tasks ahead in peace building. Ours was a leap of faith when we braved to re-engage each other last Monday after more than half a decade of impasse and indifference. But no matter how difficult it was, we choose to believe and today, we start receiving the dividends of that faith. Our agreements reached during this round of talks should tell us how far can our faith bring us and what we can achieve together.

We readily commend the magnanimity of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in ending the impasse and in propelling our frank and cordial discussions in the past five days. However, I also have to credit the fortitude of both panels in forging those agreements meant to move the peace talks forward. We also recognize the enabling interventions in the discussion of Secretary Jesus G. Dureza and Professor Joma Sison which allowed the panels to understand each other’s fears and dilemmas, especially on contentious issues such as ceasefire, JASIG and prisoner release.

This round of talks is made doubly significant with the presence of 16 NDF consultants who were released from detention in order for them to travel and join us in the talks, such as Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Tirso Alcantara and Alan Jazmines. Their inputs will enrich, indeed, our discussions not to mention the inspiration they can provide to other peace workers. We are also glad that the voices of Ka Satur, Vic Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis and other NDF consultants will now be part of our conversations in finding a peace settlement to the armed conflict.

Noticeable during our discussions is the NDF’s commitment to the peace process by agreeing to work with us for the possible completion of the negotiations within the period of nine (9) to twelve (12) months from this round of talks. In particular, we look forward to the fruitful discussions on socio economic reforms which the panels will endeavor to finish in the next six months.
We also commend the NDF’s commitment to extend its existing seven-day unilateral ceasefire for an indefinite period along with that of the government, to accompany the next rounds of talks. It is most welcome that during this period, the NDF will endeavor to work with the government to put in place a joint or bilateral ceasefire which will ultimately help us achieve an agreement for finally ending the hostilities.

I trust that the building blocks we laid down during this round of talks will provide us more confidence in the next round which we scheduled on 8 to 12 October, here in Oslo. I shall look forward to seeing you all for a more productive discussion.

I cannot end this round of talks without thanking and commending our host, the Royal Norwegian Government, especially RNG Foreign Minister Borge Brende for his unwavering support to our peace process, and the RNG’s Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process, Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum, for shepherding our discussions in her capacity as our third party facilitator. Hopefully, the Philippine Peace Process will add up to Rng’s recent achievement in peace settlement in Colombia. Congratulations, Honorable Minister and Madam Ambassador.

Lastly, I thank my panel members for the work well done along with the panel advisers, Mayors Pamintuan and Bautista and Congressman Yap as observer, our working teams, secretariat and technical committee.

In closing therefore, let me leave you with a Biblical quote, “never get tired of doing good cause in due time we will reap a harvest, if we faint not.” Let us be steadfast in our peace work until we have reached a logical conclusion of the armed conflict.

See you all in October. Thank you. Peace be with us always.