Talks hit ‘minor bumps’ on 3rd day but remain ahead of schedule

OSLO, Norway—The ongoing formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have hit minor bumps on some issues but remain “slightly ahead of schedule.”

GRP panel chair Silvestre Bello III said there have been minor difficulties but both panels were able to meet their schedule at the end of their third day of negotiations.

Na-stall lang kami dun sa last two issues—general amnesty and mode of interim ceasefire,” Bello said.

“But we already have a common statement ready, except for the formulation of our statement on amnesty and ceasefire,” he added.

Bello said the panels agreed to devote the fourth day of the negotiations on these last two issues.

NDFP panel member and spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili said that reciprocal working groups each met Wednesday morning and reported their recommendations to the negotiating panels near midday.

“It is a good thing that a bigger number of NDFP consultants are now able to directly participate and their presence here contributes to the faster pace of the talks,” Agcaoili said.

Ceasefire extention

Bello said the GRP is expecting the NDFP to declare an extension of its ongoing seven-day unilateral ceasefire in response to the “smooth and cordial” talks.

“Although, of course, the decision remains with them (NDFP).  But from all indications, mukhang ganun .  Tinitingnan mo ang body language nila e,” Bello said.

NDFP’s Agcaoili, however, says the NDFP have yet to decide on the possibility of extending their ceasefire declaration.

Pag-uusapan pa iyan bukas (Thursday),” Agcaoili said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines has declared a unilateral ceasefire from August 21 to 27 while President Rodrigo Duterte issued a unilateral open-ended ceasefire starting August 21.

Yung kay Presidente, walang timeframe.  Depende sa developments on when he (Duterte) will decide to lift it,” Bello said.

Schedule of next meetings

Bello also disclosed that the meetings of the different working groups and the committee on socio-economic reforms went quicker than expected.

Medyo matagal-tagal yung sa CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms). It took them two hours.  But the meeting on Political and Constitutional Reforms, I think only 30 minutes,” Bello said.

May nagsabi pa ngang iyung End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (working group) ay nine minutes lang,” he said.

Bello also said that other meetings have already been scheduled after the first round for formal talks.

Mayroon na.  In the report of the committees, may initial dates na. The Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC, of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respet for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) already mentioned September 20 to 23,” Bello said.

The GRP under the Gloria Arroyo and Benigno Aquino governments have never agreed to convene the JMC despite its formation in 2004 and the existence of a Joint Secretariat based in Cubao, Quezon City.

Bello said the JMC meeting, which will probably be held in Manila, will probably talk about the thousands of human rights complaints it received in the past 12 years.

“So maganda ang daloy ng pag-uusap,” Bello said.

The talks took a break Wednesday afternoon. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)