GPH, NDFP agree to expedite peace talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 Aug) – The government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed to accelerate the timetable to complete the discussion on the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations within the prescribed timetable of 6 to 12 months.

In a press statement issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) on Thursday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III , concurrent chair of the GPH peace panel, lauded the Reciprocal Working Committee (RWC) and Reciprocal Working Groups (RWG), which are composed of both panels, for setting a fixed timetable to settle the other substantive agenda.

“We, in the government panel, were surprised that the RWC and RWGs came up with agreements in so short a time. Discussions only lasted from 9 minutes to 30 minutes. It was really morale-boosting for both panels,” Bello said.

The press statement also noted that both panels took a longer discussion on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) that would touch on “the most contentious issues such as agrarian reform, national industrialization and foreign policy.”

Human rights lawyer and political detainee Efren Moncupa leads the GPH-RWC on CASER and his counterpart from the NDF is Juliet de Lima-Sison, who is member of the NDF negotiating panel. The two vowed to complete work on CASER within six months.

Being the “heart and soul” of peace negotiations between the GPH and NDFP, Bello said that socio-economic reforms “would determine the outcome of the talks,” as it addresses the root causes of the conflict to attain just and lasting peace.

“The sooner CASER is wrapped up, the better for the peace negotiations,” Bello said.

To immediately settle CASER issues, Bello said, it would advance the process of seeking political settlement with the NDF and put an end to the decades-old armed conflict between government forces and rebel troops.

Talks on CASER and RWGs on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) will hold first meetings in October in Oslo.

Meanwhile, the RWG on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EoH-DF) will present their respective draft outlines for a Comprehensive Agreement on the substantive issue on October 24 or in the next scheduled Panel meeting.

Holding simultaneous discussions on the substantive issues would increase the possibility of forging a final peace agreement within the prescribed period of at least a year, according to Bello.

He said both parties “are right on schedule” and expect a final peace agreement after a year “so we can devote five more years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term in implementing the reforms agreed upon by both parties.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)