OSLO, Norway–The second round of formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines will finish a day earlier with the approval of outlines of at least two of the three remaining substantive agenda in the peace negotiations.
GRP Negotiating Panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III told Kodao that the scheduled closing ceremony on Monday (October 10) will instead be held on Sunday (October 9) as both panels have already approved the outline for future negotiations on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) as well as End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EHDF).
“They immediately came out with a consensus on both their drafts. So there were no problems on the PCR and the EHDF,” Bello said.
“Tomorrow will be the closing ceremony already, at lunch time,” he added.
The Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (SER) is still trying to agree on an outline as of press time, however.
Bello said there are a few contentious issues in the approval of an outline for the SER agenda.
“That is what they are trying to solve. Hopefully, they could come up with a creative solution by the end of today or tomorrow,” Bello added.
The NDFP and GRP currently differ in the outlines they want to adopt for SER negotiations in the succeeding rounds.
The NDFP presented an outline that seeks to “address the root causes of the armed conflict” while GRP’s proposal include nine major outcomes from a comprehensive agreement on SER.
The NDFP said its proposed outline is enshrined in The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) of September 1, 1992 which both parties have again reaffirmed in their latest round of talks last August.
“Formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDF shall be held to resolve the armed conflict,” THJD’s first principle said.
The document added that the common goal of the aforesaid negotiations shall be the attainment of a just and lasting peace, which the NDFP said should be followed.
“(The NDFP)….exchanged with the GRP an outline of a comprehensive draft on social and economic reforms that includes agrarian reform, national industrialization, environmental protection, rights of the working people, foreign economic and trade relations, and monetary and fiscal policies,” Julie De Lima, chairperson of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on SER, said.
The GRP’s proposed outline, on the other hand, include poverty eradication, environment and climate justice, globally competitive economy, adequate and quality social services, reduced inequalities, peaceful rural communities, food security, living incomes, and gender equality and representatives.
But the GRP has already agreed to adopt the NDFP version as the working draft, De Lima said.
Joint CARHRIHL monitoring and ceasefire committees in meetings
In a press briefing, NDFP Media Team head Dan Borjal said the parties’ Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) as well as the Ceasefire Committee are conducting meetings.
He said the JMC is discussing the implementation of the CARHRIHL while the Ceasefire Committee is discussing the draft of a bilateral ceasefire for approval by both parties.
Borjal clarified, however, that the decision to approve a bilateral ceasefire declaration still remains with GRP President Rodrigo Duterte and the NDFP National Leadership.
“The approval of a bilateral ceasefire declaration would be faster if the GRP implements its commitment to release all political prisoners,” Borjal said.
NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili in his opening statement last October 6 focused on the general amnesty of political prisoners.
Agcaoili said the release of political prisoners is a matter of justice and compliance to previously signed agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law as well as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
Bello described the second round of the talks as “very productive and on target.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)