Goodwill measures from President Rodrigo Duterte may be the ticket for the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to successfully revive formal peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Jose Maria Sison said.
Invoking the spirit of yuletide, Sison said reciprocal unilateral ceasefires and the release of elderly and sickly political prisoners are good for the creation of a favorable atmosphere for peace negotiations.
“It is timely for the GRP and NDFP to celebrate with the Filipino people the season of Christmas and the New Year and to create the favorable atmosphere for peace negotiations by undertaking such goodwill measures,” Sison said.
Sison added that those who shall participate in the peace negotiations, obviously referring to jailed NDFP peace consultants, may be among those to be released early.
The NDFP’s chief political consultant said the obstacles that ended the peace talks may be overcome by another reaffirmation of agreements forged between the parties since 1992.
These agreements, including The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, outline the conduct and conditions of formal peace negotiations between the parties.
Successive GRP administrations, including Duterte’s, have sought to disregard the agreements in a repeated bid to convince NDFP negotiators to agree to hold the talks in the Philippines.
The NDFP, however, has consistently opposed the move as “dangerous”.
Sison said that he welcomes Duterte’s desire to resume the negotiations and instructions to former GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III to visit and consult him in The Netherlands.
He proposes that the NDFP and Bello set the agenda and schedule for the negotiations and to “fulfill political, legal and security requirements.”
He said the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels can pursue further negotiations on the Interim Peace Agreement, with its three components pertaining to coordinated unilateral ceasefires, general amnesty and release of all political prisoners.
The three components had been approved and signed in the presence of Norwegian third-party facilitators after four rounds of backchannel talks in May and June 2018.
Duterte, however, ordered his negotiators to abandon the formal round scheduled for June 28 of that year.
Sison also urged that the remaining sections of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development that are still to be tackled be discussed once the talks resume. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)