GRP-NDF Talks: CASER comes first before cessation of hostilities

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Sep) – The Philippine government (GRP) and National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panels will settle issues on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms (CASER) before forging an agreement on the cessation of hostilities.

Speaking in Tuesday’s forum called “A Journey to Peace: From Davao to Oslo and Back,” GRP peace panel member lawyer Angela Librado-Trinidad said that both parties cannot proceed with the cessation of hostilities without the CASER because it will not solve the root cause of the problem.

Dubbed as the “heart and soul” of GRP and NDF peace negotiations, the CASER contains the most contentious issues on agrarian reform, national industrialization, and foreign policy.

Both parties are expected to settle the CASER issue within six months, although the GRP and NDF panels will simultaneously discuss all the other substantive agenda but the approval of socio economic reforms should come first.

“I don’t think the parties, specifically the NDFP, will agree that the end of hostilities will come first before the agreement on socio economic reforms. All items will be discussed simultaneously but as to the implementation or approval, then it is still sequential,” Librado-Trinidad said

During last month’s resumption of formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway, the GRP and NDF panels affirmed the previously-signed agreements; agreed to accelerate process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks, socio-economic reforms, political and economic reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces; and reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list.

There will be meetings to be held in the Philippines to be initiated by the GRP panel members and NDFP consultants who are out on bail, Librado-Trinidad said, but members of both panels will return to Oslo next month to settle the remaining substantive agenda, specially on CASER and Political and Constitutional Reforms.

Different reciprocal working committees and reciprocal working groups have been created to fast-track the negotiations.

A press statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) said human rights lawyer and political detainee Efren Moncupa will lead the GPH-RWC and his counterpart from the NDF is Juliet de Lima-Sison, also a member of NDF negotiating panel.

The press statement added that the reciprocal working group on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EoH-DF) will present their respective draft outlines either on October 24, 2016 or in the next scheduled panel meeting.

The GRP and NDFP have both declared ceasefire, but Librado-Trinidad said both panels are expected to come out with a bilateral document on ceasefire within 60 days beginning from the commencement of the formal resumption of peace talks. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)