GPH, NDF panels reach accord on 3 issues

By on August 25, 2016

MANILA—It took the Philippine government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) four hours to agree on three major issues and re-affirm at least four agreements in the second day of the resumption of peace talks in Oslo, Norway on Tuesday (Oslo time).

Agreed during the first day of the marathon meetings are the affirmation of previously-signed agreements, reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list, and accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks namely socio-economic reforms, political and economic reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces that include the Joint Monitoring Committee.

Previous agreement that were re-affirmed during the meeting that lasted from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. include the Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, Breukelen Joint Statement of 1994, the JASIG, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRHIL).

In a statement, Department of Labor Secretary and concurrent chair of the GPH Silvestre Bello III described the panel meeting as “a frank and honest discussion among friends.”

“We are candid with each other, knowing that we share the common agenda of peace,” he said.

Bello said heated arguments happened during the meeting, which in turn were appeased after panel members from both parties took some breaks.

He, however, said these “are normal during negotiations.”

“But the general atmosphere was cordial as the session was punctuated by laughter and light banter,” he said.

Bello said the re-affirmed agreements are “subject to enhancements that may be mutually agreed upon later by both panels.”

“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,” he said.

To fast track the negotiations, both sides agreed to activate the Reciprocal Working Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), the Reciprocal Working Groups (RWGs) on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) and the End of Hostilities-Disposition of Forces (EOH-DOF).

Bello said the RWC and RWGs would hold simultaneous meetings on substantive issues separate with the formal panel meetings.

He said it was agreed that RWC meetings will be held in Oslo while RWG meetings may be held in the Philippines.

Both sides also agreed to finish discussions on socio-economic reforms within six months “so that a comprehensive agreement on the issue may be signed at the panel level.”

They also agreed to reconstitute the list of NDF consultants who will be immune from arrest to allow them to participate in the peace negotiations.

The statement said NDF leaders informed the GPH the JASIG list would contain the names of 54 NDF consultants who are classified as “publicly-known” and 87 guerilla leaders who are known for their “assumed names” and are still underground but involved in the peace process.

Two other issues scheduled for discussions in Oslo would be taken up on the meeting set on Thursday, Bello said.

These issues are the mode of interim ceasefire and amnesty proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress.