GRP, NDFP agree to continue peace talks, plan to hold separate consultations

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 June) – The government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed to continue the peace negotiations and to overcome obstacles and impediments as both panels planned to do separate consultations on the peace process simultaneous with the three-month review of the previously signed agreements.

Previously signed agreements include the 1992 Joint Hague Agreement Declaration, 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, and 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

In a statement released Thursday, GRP peace panel member Hernani A. Braganza said the government team relayed to the communist leaders during informal peace talks in Utrecht, The Netherlands
held from June 18 to 20 the decision of the government panel to utilize the three-month review period to consult instrumentalities of government and the general public about the negotiations and the substantive issues involved.

Braganza, the supervising panel member for CASER, led the GRP panel during the meeting, which was attended by NDFP panel chair Fidel V. Agcaoili and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison with representatives of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), including Special Envoy Idun Tvedt, as Third Party Facilitator (TPF).

Both parties expressed gratitude to Norway for being the third party facilitator to the GRP-NDFP peace talks since 2001.

Last Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque released a statement that there might no longer be a need for a third party facilitator as the President wants the holding of the negotiations in the country.

He clarified the following day that all third parties who have been involved in the previous peace talks and who would want to continue to be involved can still participate.

But the communists maintained that the peace talks must be held in a foreign neutral land as stated in the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), “consistent with the general practice of warring parties to negotiate peace outside of their country or their respective territories.”

The communist leaders expressed intention to conduct their own separate actions and activities that aim to protect the gains already achieved as a result of backchannel, informal and formal talks between the two panels, Braganza said.

He added that the communist leaders reiterated their commitment to all signed agreements, including those involving the planned visit of Sison, former professor of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in Political Thought, in the Philippines to Manila for a meeting with the President.

Sison earlier maintained he will not return to the country unless Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which is seen to address the root cause of armed conflicts, will be signed by both parties.

Braganza said he extended the government panel’s appreciation to the NDF’s open-mindedness in coming to terms with Duterte’s decision and wait wait for the outcome of the government’s review before proceeding with any peace conversation with government.

The supposed resumption of the 5th round of talks on June 28 to 30 in Oslo, Norway was cancelled after Duterte told his government panel to reset the meeting in order to engage the “bigger table” before they would work out agreements with the communist leaders.

Braganza added that the NDFP has considered the invitation to join the GRP in the public consultations in hope to help galvanize public support to peace efforts to put an end to the communist insurgencies through the achievement of economic, social and political reforms.

The GRP panel member also conveyed to their communist counterparts about the decision of the government to suspend all backchannel talks, pending the three-month review of all signed agreements but keep the communication between two parties open.

In a statement, the NDFP said both parties expressed the intention to conduct separate unilateral consultations and in due course bilateral consultations according to their respective needs on the premise that the GRP and NDFP panels are mandated by their respective principals in accordance with existing agreements and that the GRP and NDFP are mutually determined to overcome obstacles and impediments to the peace negotiations.

The NDFP will conduct consultations on the CASER to review the remaining outstanding issues in the sections on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) and polish draft on Environmental Rehabilitation and Compensation and Upholding People’s Rights in preparation for the eventual resumption of negotiations on CASER.

It added that the NDFP hold unilateral consultations with its working group on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR).

Both parties also committed to protect and preserve the gains that had been achieved in the four rounds of informal talks that produced documents containing important agreements to move the process forward, the statement said.

“The agreements reached in the four rounds of informal talks in March, April, May and June 2018 remain valid and have the effect of continuing the peace negotiations under the direction of the principals and reaffirmation of previous agreements,” it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)