Informal GRP-NDFP bilateral meeting set on April 20

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 April) – An informal bilateral meeting will be held on April 20 in Manila to assist Reciprocal Working Committees of the government (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) clarify and reconcile some contentious issues in their respective drafts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

In statement released Sunday, Alan Jazmines, member of the of the NDFP’s reciprocal working committee on social economic reforms (RWC-SER), said results of these bilateral meetings will be submitted to their RWC-SER for approval and will be taken up on the fifth round of formal peace talks scheduled for May 26 to June 2, 2017 in Noorwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands.

Jazmines said that “any formal negotiations between the Negotiating Panels in the country is contrary to the letter and spirit of The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) with regard to the holding of peace negotiations in a foreign neutral venue.”

The Hague Joint Declaration and the Agreement on the Formation, Operationalization and Sequencing of the RWCs mandates the RWCs-SER to draft the CASER, which would then be submitted to their respective Negotiating Panels for formal negotiations, approval and signing.

“We share in the optimism that peace can be achieved once the much-needed social and economic reforms that squarely address the root causes of the armed conflict are genuinely undertaken,” Jazmines said.

Another joint agreement signed during the third round of talks in January in Rome stipulates that formal meetings of the RWC-SER will be held simultaneous with, and in the same venue as, the formal meetings of the negotiating panels.

During the fourth round of talks held April 3-6 in the Netherlands, the GRP and NDFP panels agreed that the free land distribution will be the “basic principle” of the agrarian reform, one of the components of the CASER.

It said agreeing on common principle was the “main message of the bilateral meeting of the RWCs-SER and an achievement of the Fourth Round of Talks.”

In that meeting, the RWCs-SER exchanged their respective comparative “color-coded matrices” identifying both contentious and acceptable provisions of the GRP and NDFP’s respective drafts of CASER.

These contentious provisions were then clustered into nine major topics: coverage, confiscation, compensation, lease/leaseback and plantations, international agreements/domestic law, political power/implementation mechanisms, land use, private insurance, and terminologies.

During RWCs-SER’s initial discussions, both agreed to convene bilateral teams, as defined during the third round of talks, to compose of three members from each side and supervised by RWCs-SER members to “to work on the sections on the ARRD and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED).”

It added the bilateral teams will hold meeting in Metro Manila, Philippines or in a mutually agreed venue agreed upon by both parties.

The first meeting will be on April 20; meeting of the editing team to reconcile the draft minutes of the third round of RWCs-SER bilateral meetings on April 22; exchange of comments on the contentious provisions of the NIED drafts on May 2; meeting of the NIED bilateral teams on May 4; submission of reports of the bilateral teams to the RWCs-SER and submission of GRP’s comparative color-coded matrices on Environmental Protection and Rights of the Working People and Livelihoods to NDFP on May 19; exchange of draft minutes of the fourth round of the RWCs-SER bilateral meetings on May 20. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)