OSLO, Norway (reposted 25Aug2016)—The ongoing formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is expected to end successfully on Friday, with both parties agreeing on three out of five issues on the second day of the talks.
Both parties 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 the agenda.
“So far, so good sa three points namin. Successful na. But we still have a long way to go,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said.
Dureza added that “there would be possible enhancements” of previously-signed agreements. “[This is to] update ourselves because these were signed many years ago,” he said.
These agreements include The Hague Joint Declaration, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and the JASIG.
Still to be discussed and agreed upon is the mode of interim ceasefire and amnesty declaration for all political prisoners.
Reconstitution of JASIG
The GPH panel agreed to reconstitute the NDFP’s JASIG list. The NDFP came prepared with lists of individuals holding documents of identification.
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. Eighty-seven ang may aliases at 54 ang publicly-known figures. May opportunity pa to add some more,” Dureza said.
He added that the NDFP has three months to complete their list, including photographing the individuals for verification procedures when needed.
The JASIG is meant to provide the conditions conducive to free discussion and movement of NDFP personnel involved in the peace negotiations. “Without the JASIG, peace negotiations would not be possible,” the NDFP said in a statement.
During the previous administrations, the GPH arrested JASIG-protected NDFP consultants. Most them were given temporary freedom last week to join the peace talks.
Acceleration of peace talks
Both parties also agreed to accelerate the peace process and set the timeline for the completion of the three remaining items in the substantive agenda: social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
The Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) will meet in September and shall “strive to reach an agreement on genuine land reform, national industrialization, workers’ rights and welfare, social welfare, education and culture,” according to the NDFP.
Within six months from September, the tentative Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) will be submitted for approval by both panels.
Fidel Agcaoili, spokesperson and member of the NDFP negotiating panel, said that the six months timeline for the CASER will be based on their “best effort.”
“Para mapabilis, we agreed to put up sub-committees on land reform and rural development, national industrialization, rights of working people, and others,” Agcaoili said.
During the first day of the talks, Luis Jalandoni, head of the NDFP negotiating panel said that the CASER is a “major agreement” that will be “challenging to both sides.”
“To have an agreement of genuine land reform will [benefit] about 75 million out of 100 million [of the population] who aspire for land reform. This will be a major agreement if both sides can bring it about, and will give a push for the simultaneously being negotiated political and constitutional reforms,” Jalandoni said.
The Reciprocal Working Groups on Political and Constitutional Reforms and End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces, meanwhile, also met to discuss their future work.
However, Agcaoili clarified that these working groups will not convene into a committee, unless the CASER—which he described as a “guidepost”—has been signed.
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,” he said.
He described the arrival of the six additional NDFP consultants from Manila before both parties took their lunch break as “electric.”
NDFP consultants Concha Araneta-Bocala, Randy Malayao, Kennedy Bangibang, Alfredo Mapano, Ariel Arbitrario, and Eduardo Henelisa arrived only 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.
Dureza said they hope to end the ongoing negotiations by midday of Friday, August 26. [report from Raymund Villanueva of Kodao Productions]