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GPH, NDF peace talks under way

Peace negotiations between the Philippean government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)

OSLO, Norway – The Philippine government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF), political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), started to hammer out initial agreements on the panel and committee levels, spurred on by a shared commitment to fast track negotiations for signing of a peace accord within nine to 12 months.

GPH panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III and NDF counterpart Luis Jalandoni led discussions in the morning session that dealt with the re-affirmation of previously signed documents, reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the accelerated process for the negotiations.

Among the documents that were re-affirmed were 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 or CAR-HR/IHL.

In the afternoon sessions, representatives from both sides were broken up into Reciprocal Working Commitees (RWCs) to discuss concerns on socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces. They were still locked in conference as of press time.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and NDF Chief Political Consultant and CPP Founding Chairman Jose Maria Sison oversaw the conduct of the panel and committee discussions.

Bello led the GPH panel composed of fellow peace negotiations returnees former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza, and former Commission on Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, and lawyers Angela Librado-Trinidad and Antonio Trinidad.

Jalandoni was assisted by NDF human rights committee chairperson Fidel Agcaoili, NDF special office for the protection of children chairperson Conni K. Ledesma, NDF representative for Nordic countries Asterio Palima, and Juliet De Lima-Sison, chairperson of the NDF RWC on social reforms.

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

Meanwhile, two more NDF consultants recently released by the Philippine government – NPA commander Tirso Alcantara and Concha Araneta Bocalan and guerilla leader Maria Concepcion “Concha” Araneta-Bocala – are expected to arrive here today to join the peace negotiations.

In his opening statement at the start of the resumption of the formal talks here Monday, Bello acknowledged the role of President Duterte in “renewing our optimism in resuming the negotiations.”

He also conveyed Duterte’s message that everything has been done to re-open the negotiations and that the President was “willing to walk the extra mile to achieve peace.” (ROCKY NAZARENO)