Bello hopes bilateral ceasefire agreement signed in 3rd round of talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 January) —  The government (GRP) peace panel will “strive hard” to have the bilateral ceasefire agreement with the National Democratic Front (NDF) signed during the third round of formal peace negotiations on January 19 to 25 in Rome, Italy, its chief negotiator said.

GRP peace panel chair and concurrent Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told reporters at the launch of the Philippine chairmanship of the ASEAN 2017 at the SMX Convention Center Davao Sunday that they hope to settle with the NDF the “definition of terms,” for  acts considered as hostile and violative of the ceasefire.

Two panels each declared a unilateral ceasefire shortly before the start of the first round of formal pace talks in Oslo, Norway in late August. They gave themselves 60 days from the end of the first round to forge a bilateral ceasefire agreement but no agreement was signed within 60 days or even during the second round of formal peace talks in October.

“The problem with unilateral ceasefire is that it lacks the definition of terms. You do not know what constitutes the hostile act, you do not know what constitutes a violation of the ceasefire. In bilateral agreement, there is definition of terms to know what hostile act will constitute a violation,” he said.

The two peace panels will also tackle the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms (CASER) in the third round of talks.

But he said they are not rushing on the signing of CASER because it is the most contentious among the agreements that will be signed by the GRP and NDFP.

Described as the “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations, the CASER contains the most contentious issues such as  agrarian reform, national industrialization, and foreign policy.

In a press release issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) on Saturday, Bello expressed optimism that major breakthroughs will take place next week.

“We are prepared to sign side and other agreements while we are discussing contents and provisions of the major substantive agenda,” Bello.

He added that draft documents will be submitted on Monday to President Rodrigo Duterte.. The government panel will leave for Rome, Italy on Tuesday, he said.

Among these draft documents are the draft CASER, comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms (CAPCR) and comprehensive agreement on end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EOHDOF).

“We are all set and ready to engage the NDF in the discussion of all substantive agenda including supplemental agreements needed to proceed and arrive at a peaceful negotiated political settlement to end the armed conflict in the country,” Bello said.

He emphasized that the GRP panel is doing all it can “in the spirit of true reconciliation and genuine quest for just and lasting peace.”

He said t the GRP panel is ready to sign side and other agreements while discussing contents and provisions of rhe major substantive agenda.

Bello explained that government is all set to sign a supplemental agreement on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which will include an expanded role for the  Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).

“And we are challenging the NDF to formalize the unilateral ceasefire with a bilateral ceasefire agreement to give our communities and combatants a more secure environment for the peace process,” Bello added.  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)