DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 August) — Negotiations between the Philippine government and National Democratic Front started Tuesday with discussions on the remaining substantive agenda for the talks that were agreed upon during the Ramos administration in a bid to forge a final peace agreement within six to 12 months.
In a press statement from Oslo, Norway where the peace talks formally resumed on Monday, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said both panels and their committees started talks on the timeline for socioeconomic reforms, political and economic reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
The first item in the agenda, respect for human rights and International Humanitarian Law, was given flesh in the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Law or CARHRIHL signed in 1992.
The statement said the parties have also agreed to affirm previously signed agreements such as CARHRIHL and The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, and reconstitute the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, concurrent chair of the government peace panel, explained that both parties agreed to hold meetings in panel and committee levels to accelerate the process of discussion on substantive issues related to the talks.
Bello noted that past negotiations had been spent more on procedures rather than on the substantive agenda.
“We have learned our lessons from past experiences. Both parties have resumed the stalled peace negotiations and are now committed to explore all avenues possible to fast-track the process,” he added.
Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus G. Dureza said President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed the government panel “to accelerate the peace negotiations…to bring a definitive and final peace settlement within six to 12 months.”
“We can all see now that there is renewed and fresh euphoria in the air. Our coming together starting today should be not in the context of out-witting or out-maneuvering each other across the table,” Dureza said.
“Neither is this a joust of one side unduly gaining strategic advantage over the other. But this should be more of a coming together of Filipinos interested to see changes in the land—in our land, to be shared for and by all. If we can, let’s no longer call our engagements as negotiations but instead a shared national ‘conversation’ a ‘dialogue’ where we find together common grounds, bridge the divides, and seek common dreams to share,” he added.
Aside from Bello, the government negotiators include former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza, former Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, and lawyers Angela Librado-Trinidad and Antonio Arellano.
The NDF, on the other hand, is represented by its chairman Luis Jalandoni, Fidel Agcaoili, Connie Ledesma, Asterio Palima, and Juliet de Lima-Sison.
Negotiations started a day after the opening ceremony that marked the formal resumption of peace talks currently being held at the Scandic Holmenkollen Park Hotel in Oslo, Norway.
Peace talks between the government and the NDF started in 1986 in a bid to resolve Asia’s longest running armed struggle being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines through its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
The NDF serves as the umbrella organization of all revolutionary groups in the country. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)