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Gov't-NDF peace panel buckle down to work

Negotiators from the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) today, August 23, buckled down to work and held successive meetings, both in panel and committee levels, as part of a shared commitment to forge a final peace agreement within six to 12 months.

The peace negotiators got down to the brass tacks a day after holding an opening ceremony that marked the formal resumption of peace talks currently being held at the Scandic Holmenkollen Park Hotel in Oslo, Norway.

Labor Secretary Silvestre "Bebot" H. Bello III, concurrent chair of the government peace panel, explained that both parties agreed to hold meetings in panel and committee levels to accelerate the process of discussion on substantive issues related to the talks.

"Our negotiations in the past decades have been difficult to the point of seemingly immovable discussions. We spent more time in procedures rather than on the substantive agenda before us," Bello said.

"We have learned our lessons from past experiences. Both parties have resumed the stalled peace negotiations and are now committed to explore all avenues possible to fast-track the process," he added.

Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, for his part, noted that the government panel has been instructed to accelerate the peace negotiations in compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte's commitment to bring a definitive and final peace settlement within six to 12 months.

"We can all see now that there is renewed and fresh euphoria in the air. Our coming together starting today should be not in the context of out-witting or out-maneuvering each other across the table," Dureza said.

"Neither is this a joust of one side unduly gaining strategic advantage over the other. But this should be more of a coming together of Filipinos interested to see changes in the land--in our land, to be shared for and by all. If we can, let's no longer call our engagements as negotiations but instead a shared national 'conversation' a 'dialogue' where we find together common grounds, bridge the divides, and seek common dreams to share," he added.

To jumpstart the peace process, both panels sat down this morning (Oslo time) and held discussions on three substantive agenda:

  • Affirmation of previously-signed agreements;
  • Accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks: socio-economic reforms; political and economic reforms; and end of hostilities and disposition of forces; and
  • Reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list.

Among the documents expected to be re-affirmed by both panels 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 (CARHRIHL).

Aside from Bello, the government negotiators include former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza, former Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, and Attorneys Angela Librado-Trinidad and Antonio Arellano.

The NDF, on the other hand, is represented by its chairman Luis Jalandoni, Fidel Agcaoili, Connie Ledesma, Asterio Palima, and Juliet de Lima-Sison.

After the panel meeting, negotiators from both parties will supervise simultaneous discussions of the Reciprocal Working Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Reciprocal Working Groups on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) and End of Hostilities-Disposition of Forces (EOH-DOF).

For the government panel, Braganza was assigned to supervise the CASER committee; Sarmiento for PCR; and Arellano and Librado for EOH-DOF.

Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy for the Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum and her staff acted as third party facilitators in moderating the panel and committee discussions. ###

[Source: Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Manila, The Philippines, 23Aug16]

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Peace Negotiations in the Philippines
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