GPH, NDF to sign bilateral ceasefire agreement on Dec. 10, says Bello

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 Nov) – The government peace panel hopes to sign the bilateral ceasefire with the National Democratic Front (NDF) on December 10, International Human Rights Day, GRP peace panel chair Silvestre Bello, said.

“Hopefully, we will be able to get the signing of the bilateral ceasefire, end of November or first week of December, although for symbolism we want to have the joint signing of the ceasefire on a very significant day and that is on December 10, human rights day,” Bello told reporters at the sidelines of the National MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises)  Summit Friday evening.

As much as the panels want the signing to happen in the Philippines, Bello said it may take place in Oslo, Norway. The Royal Norwegian Government is the  third party negotiator in the GRP-NDF peace process and the preliminary talks in June as well as the formal rounds in August and October, were held in Oslo.

Both panels have been exchanging drafts on the ceasefire agreements since the resumption of the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway in August 2016, he said.

He added they have yet to define the most critical terms and mechanisms in the ceasefire documents such as what constitutes hostile acts and the monitoring of the for the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

“Ito yung mga critical terms in the ceasefire provision, so kailangan magkaroon ng consensus yan baka mamaya mapalpak lang. After that, we will be ready to sign the joint ceasefire,” he said.

During the second round of peace talks on October 6 to 9 in Oslo, the GRP and the NDFP panels agreed on the common draft frameworks and outlines on the three remaining substantive agenda on socio economic, political and constitutional, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

“And given the efforts put in by both panels and their working committees, including that of our third party facilitator, we substantially achieved the work at hand which is to craft the common frames and outlines for our draft agreements on socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and on end of hostilities and disposition forces,” he said.

The outlines and frameworks were completed by the Reciprocal Working Committee (RWC) and Reciprocal Working Groups (RWGs) after several sessions during the second round of peace negotiations held from October 6 to 9.

“The disagreements and arguments that accompanied the work of some of our working committees are understandable given the scope and magnitude of the tasks before them,” he said.

Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the agreed common outlines will now give the framework of the future peace agreement, as he emphasized that coming up with a common outline is already a big step leading towards a comprehensive settlement.

“It is important to note that these agreed outlines will now provide the framework to deliver on our commitments – gives us avenue of hope for the people to achieve a just and lasting peace,” he said.

On the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio Economic Reforms (CASER), described as the “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations, both panels agreed to exchange drafts and hold bilateral meetings “to correspond to the formal meetings of the negotiating panels.”

The CASER contains the most contentious issues such as the agrarian reform, national industrialization, and foreign policy.

Based on the agreed common framework and outlines, the forging of CASER is aimed to eradicate “Philippine poverty and reduce inequality in all their aspects and dimensions to have productive, decent and dignified lives.”

The RWC on political and constitutional reforms will flesh out the agreed outline on PCR between November and December 2016 in the Philippines. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)