GRP, NDF working for consensus on truce, ‘contentious’ socioeconomic provisions — Bello

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 May) – The government and the National Democratic Front are finding ways to arrive at a consensus on a bilateral ceasefire and “contentious provisions” on the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), Labor Secretary and GRP peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III said Monday.

In an interview at the sidelines of the 2017 National Labor Day Celebration at the People’s Park in Davao City, Bello said their respective committees exchanged drafts and held informal bilateral meetings in the country to discuss the contentious provisions as pointed out during the fourth round of talks last April 3 to 7 in the Netherlands.

“Ang report sa akin ni (The report to me by) Nani Braganza, who is chairman of the committee on CASER, mukhang magkakasundo na sila (It seems they are agreeing) and they will submit it to the panel for final approval maybe by May 27 to June 1,” Bello said in an earlier interview at the opening of the Labor Day Job Fair at the Gaisano Mall of Davao.

He said the draft CASER will be presented in the fifth round of talks in Noorwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands on May 26 to June 2, 2017.

During the April 3-6 talks in The Netherlands, the committees exchanged their respective comparative “color-coded matrices” identifying both contentious and acceptable provisions of the CASER drafts submitted by both parties.

The parties agreed on the following schedules: exchange comments on the contentious provisions of National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) drafts on May 2; meeting of the NIED bilateral teams on May 4; submission of reports of the bilateral teams to the reciprocal working committees and submission of GRP’s comparative color-coded matrices on Environmental Protection and Rights of the Working People and Livelihoods to the NDF on May 19; exchange of draft minutes of the fourth round of the bilateral meetings of the reciprocal working committees on May 20.

On ceasefire, Bello said, “Same with CASER, they may arrive at a consensus on the definition of terms and parameters, including, among others, the entity who will act as the “referee” between government and communist forces and the collection of taxes.”

“The President wants the collection of revolutionary taxes stopped but the other side said their forces will go hungry without the taxes,” he said.

He said it is necessary for both parties to work on development programs to address the concerns.

The GRP and NDF panels signed an agreement on Interim Joint Ceasefire, which will take effect upon the approval and signing of the ground rules. It will be effective until a permanent ceasefire agreement is forged as part of Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

The interim joint ceasefire “aims to provide a conducive environment for the GRP and NDFP negotiations, encourage the forging of a more stable and comprehensive Joint Ceasefire Agreement and provide an enabling environment for the eventual and early signing of CASER.”

The GRP and NDF panels directed their respective ceasefire committees to “discuss, formulate and finalize the guidelines and ground rules for the implementation of the agreement, including rules governing the presence of armed units and elements of both parties in local communities, the creation of buffer zones, the prohibition of hostile and provocative acts, and ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanisms.” (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)