Deles: informal meetings with NDF to help accelerate formal peace talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 February) – The Philippine government hopes that informal talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)  will hasten the resumption of formal peace talks, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said.

Deles admitted at the  press conference of the Mindanao Development Forum on Friday that government has had more difficulties in pushing for settlement with the NDFP than with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“I think it is also no secret that last December, there was a meeting. There are some informal explorations of how that process can be moved,” she told reporters.

“We continue to work with our third party facilitator, the government of Norway, so that this informal exploration that is happening will help accelerate the discussions,” she said.

The Royal Norwegian government hosted and facilitated the first meeting of the representatives of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDF in pursuance of the “special track” of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations in the Hague on December 17 and 18.

In a press statement on December 19, NDFP peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni expressed appreciation for the meeting but warned against non-compliance with agreements.

He said the NDFP’s offer of the special track, which means the offer to the GPH of  alliance and truce, was issued to President Benigno Aquino III in January 2011.

Both parties agreed to carry on the discussions on common declaration of national unity and just peace; further upholding national independence, democracy and human rights; committee of national unity, peace and development; agrarian reform, rural development and national
industrialization; and truce.

It was also in the meeting that the holding of a nationwide ceasefire from midnight of December 20, 2012 to midnight of January 15, 2013 was confirmed.

The ceasefire, Jalandoni said was to give due consideration to the relief and rehabilitation of the victims and communities devastated by typhoon Pablo that made landfall in Mindanao last Dec. 4.

The GPH and NDFP special representatives agreed during their meeting last December to meet again sometime early this year.

Deles said the government is looking at “a holistic picture” in its settlement with the NDFP, adding, “we look at the different things  that need to be put in place in terms of winning the ground for peace.”

She pointed out that in helping rebuild areas in Mindanao that were affected by Pablo, the government is hoping that “it may allow us to have some building blocks that will help to overcome” the problems on the table.

“I think in Mindanao, it is an important element to see that the Pablo-devastated areas are also highly affected by the conflict with the NPA,” she told reporters.

She added: “And that is our official call now, in fact, is to call in everyone to help in rebuilding that area in a way that there will not be just resilience to climate change effects but in a way that it will also be conflict-free.”

Meanwhile, the Sowing the Seeds of Peace, a Mindanao peace advocacy group supporting GPH-NDFP peace talks, pushed for both panels to sign a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic rights as “it provides concrete solutions to the root causes of environment destructions.”

Bishop Felixberto Calang, convener, said in a press statement dated January 26 that  more natural disasters like typhoons Sendong and Pablo loom in the immediate future unless comprehensive social and economic reforms are instituted.

“The roots of our environmental crises today are linked to monopoly of land, extractive industries and land conversions, and an economy that is not pro-Filipino but caters to foreign interests,” he said.

The genuine agrarian reform and a nationalist development program, he said, are “our only way out of these catastrophes since decades of market-oriented, consumerist, and exploitative paradigms have led us into this mess today.” (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)