QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s peace team agreed to resume formal negotiations next month with a historic joint statement last night in Oslo, Norway (1 am, Manila time).
In a successful conclusion to their two-day exploratory talks, both parties also agreed to discuss in their formal negotiations the affirmation of previously-signed agreements, accelerated process for the negotiations, reconstitution of the NDFP list of Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG)-protected personnel, amnesty proclamation of all political prisoners, and mode of interim ceasefire.
The statement also committed the incoming government’s team to recommend to Duterte the immediate release of detained NDFP panel consultants and staff, as well as the immediate release of prisoners and detainees based on humanitarian grounds.
Incoming Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza credited Duterte for his “bold and out-of-the-box positions” that enabled them to achieve “very significant steps” in their initial talks with the NDFP.
“It (the success of the exploratory talks) shows there is big hope and expectations that we can move forward to address the roots of the armed conflict and to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Philippines,’ NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni for his part said.
Anakpawis Representative-elect and independent observer to the talks Ariel Casilao said the atmosphere around the negotiating table was very happy.
“(The parties are) Optimistic and vigilant that their agreements are implemented,” Casilao said.
“It (the Joint Statement) is a breakthrough in a way, as it reopens a lot of closed doors,” NDFP legal consultant Edre Olalia for his part said.
NDFP’s negotiations with the Benigno Aquino administration of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) stalled on the latter’s failure to release political prisoners despite promising to undertake steps for the release of prisoners and detainees in a Joint Statement it signed with the former in February 21, 2011.
The Aquino GPH also tried to throw aside previous signed agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) of 1992 and the JASIG of 1995, despite reaffirming them in the 2011 statement.
Incumbent presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles has reportedly described the THJD as a “document of perpetual division” while incumbent GPH chief negotiator has reportedly declared the JASIG as “inoperative.”
Both parties thanked the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) for hosting the talks led by its special envoy for the Philippine peace process Ambassador Elisabeth Slåttum.
Jalandoni said the RNG worked very hard, up to the last moment to make sure that the talks will take place.
Slåttum for her part congratulated the parties for a “positive, optimistic and very productive atmosphere.”
“I am very pleased that you have decided to resume formal talks,” Slåttum told the negotiators.
Slåttum said she is looking forward to welcoming the parties back in Oslo in July. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)