Peace talks sure to end successfully on Friday–Dureza

OSLO, Norway—The ongoing formal peace negotiation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is sure to end successfully on Friday with both parties already agreeing to three important issues on just the second day of the talks.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said both parties have already agreed to reaffirm all previously signed agreements, reconstitute NDFP’s list of Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG)-protected consultants and staff, and accelerate the discussions of the remaining items in their agenda.

“We affirmed already previously-signed agreements. Mayroon lang kaming bagong parang colatilla na there would be possible enhancements of these previously-signed agreements.  (This is to) update ourselves because these were signed many years ago,” Dureza said.

These agreements include The Hague Joint Declaration, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, and the JASIG.

Dureza said the GRP panel has also agreed to the reconstitution of the NDFP’s JASIG list and that the NDFP came prepared with lists of included individuals.

NDFP’s original JASIG list could no longer be opened when diskettes containing pass keys were corrupted following a raid by the Dutch police of its international office in Utrecht in August 2007.

“There are two lists. One containing already publicly-known figures.  And the second list, containing those who are still out there on the field.  Hindi nakalutang, aliases yun.,” Dureza said.

“Eighty-seven ang may aliases at 54 ang publicly-known figures. May opportunity pa to add some more,” he said.

Dureza added that the NDFP has three months to complete their list, including photographing the individuals for verification procedures when needed.

On the acceleration of the peace negotiations, Dureza said both parties have yet to talk about the exact timeline.

“It (the peace talks) may still reach a year,” he said.

“Be sure that there will be a joint statement because we reached a consensus on the first item, the affirmation of previously-signed agreements,” Dureza said.

Kaagad, before we moved to the next topic, mayroon nang crafted  language at in-authenticate na namin.  Pagdating ng last day (Friday), iko-consolidate na namin. So meron na as we moved forward,” he said.

“So far-so good sa three points namin. Successful na. But we still have a long way to go,” he added.

Touching moment

Dureza said the light atmosphere in the talks has contributed to the swift agreement on important issues.

“With the kind of ambience on both sides, I don’t think there would be big obstacles. Parang maganda ‘yung usapan across the table,” Dureza said.

Dureza described the arrival of the six additional NDFP consultants from Manila before the parties took their lunch break as “electric” that added positivism to the negotiations.

Concha Araneta-Bocala, Randy Malayao, Kennedy Bangibang, Alfredo Mapano, Ariel Arbitrario, and Eduardo Genelsa only arrived on the second day of the talks due to complications in the processing of their travel documents.

“When they embraced after not having seen each other for a long time, it was not only warm.  It was touching,” Dureza said.

Reciprocating GRP’s political will

NDFP panel vice-chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said GRP’s release of their consultants showed its political will to comply with its commitments.

“Certainly, the NDFP would have to reciprocate din naman to show appreciation. We should also show our political will,” Agcaoili said on how the release of their consultants has contributed to the light atmosphere in the talks.

He also agreed with Dureza that both parties have committed to exert their best effort to craft an agreement on the next substantive agenda—socio-economic reforms—within six months.

Para mapabilis, we agreed to put up subcommittees on land reform and rural development, national industrialization, rights of workings peoples, and others under the reciprocal working committee on socio-economic reforms,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili also said that both parties have convened their respective working groups on political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces to enable them to form reciprocal working committees immediately after a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms has been signed.

Dureza said they hope to end the ongoing negotiations by midday of Friday, August 26. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, Kodao Productions)