PH-NDF panels fast-track peace talks
The peace panels of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) have been fast-tracking negotiations as formal talks started this week in Oslo, Norway.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), in a statement released Wednesday, said the two panels agreed on three out of five substantive issues.
“The negotiating panels only took four hours, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., to settle minor conflicting positions on the three substantive issues during a marathon session that was punctuated on several instances by laughter and light banter,” it said.
The three issues agreed upon were (1) affirmation of previously signed agreements, (2) reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) list and (3) accelerated process for negotiations.
Peace talks with the NDF, which is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), were previously stalled because of disagreements regarding the list of JASIG-protected personalities.
CPP founder and chief political consultant Jose Ma. “Joma” Sison, who is also in Norway for the talks, told INQ&A on Tuesday that the NDF has already furnished the government panel with the reconstituted list so that those involved in the peace negotiations would be protected by the Jasig, which makes them immune from arrest.
The list contains the names of “publicly-known” 54 NDF consultants and 87 “assumed names” of guerrilla leaders who remain underground but are involved in consultations for the peace process.
Of the four agreements needed finalized by the peace panels, only the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl) was agreed upon in the past.
Opapp said the three remaining agreements—socio-economic reforms, political and economic reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces—will be accelerated.
Sison said the panels have created reciprocal working groups to simultaneously work on the three remaining agreements.
He said the drafts would likely be available in six months.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, concurrent chair of the government panel, said the panel members were “candid with each other, knowing that (they) share the common agenda of peace.”
“There were heated discussions, at times, which are normal during negotiations. In fact, we have to call a break on several occasions to cool off. But the general atmosphere was cordial as the session was punctuated by laughter and light banter,” he said.
While all agreements, from the time of former President Corazon Aquino, were “re-affirmed,” they will still be “subject to enhancements.” The agreements are The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, Breukelen Joint Statement of 1994, the JASIG and the Carhrihl.
“We may need these enhancements in the future as we do not want to be tied down by the rigidity of the past. Learning from mistakes of the previous negotiations, we want to explore all options to move the process fast forward,” Bello said.
The secretary said the working groups can hold their own discussions in their chosen venues.
To be discussed on Thursday are the mode of interim ceasefire and amnesty proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress. RAM
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