GPH, NDFP report ‘very jovial’ talks

QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES–The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the incoming Rodrigo Duterte government’s peace panels began the second day of their initial talks in very high spirits, reports from Oslo indicate.

“There is evident shared optimism on both sides due to the declaration of President-elect Rody Duterte to seek an early sustainable peace for the nation,” incoming presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza said on his Facebook wall.

Edre Olalia, NDFP legal adviser, also described yesterday’s opening round as “very jovial.”

Olalia added that hopes were very high and the mood was expectant at yesterday’s meeting.

“(There were) plenty of catching up between old friends and acquaintances,” Olalia said.

Dureza, incoming Government of the Philippines (GPH) chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and incoming GPH peace panel member Hernani Braganza are considered old hands in negotiating with the NDFP.

Dureza and Bello started negotiating with the NDFP in 1994 under the Fidel Ramos government while Braganza first joined the GPH panel in 2001 under the Gloria Arroyo administration.

The NDFP for its part has retained its peace panel since 1994.

Second day

Anakpawis Representative-elect and independent observer to the talks Ariel Casilao and Braganza clarified that the talks are not yet finished.

“We meet again today,” Braganza said.

The NDFP has reportedly submitted drafts on a joint statement with the GPH and an interim ceasefire agreement.

Braganza said that their team has submitted their drafts to the NDFP.

Casilao confirmed that the GPH has already submitted their comments and amendments to the NDFP’s draft joint declaration.

“The discussions will resume today on the reply of the NDFP to the GPH’s proposed wordings of the (draft) declaration,” Casilao said.

Dureza said that both the GPH and the NDFP agreed that since the government participants have not yet assumed office, the consensus points, if any, would only be initialed for authentication purposes at the close of the informal talks.

The documents would be be formalized after President-elect Duterte’s government has assumed office on July 1, Dureza said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)