DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A close contact between the government and the National Democratic Front prior to the third round of peace talks on January next year is important for the success of the negotiations, an official of the Royal Norwegian Government said.
“It will be very important that they stay in close contacts during these three months so that dialogue is not lost. And this is also an area where Norway will do our best to contribute, that that space, that that dialogue is not lost,” Elisabeth Slattum, special envoy of the Royal Norwegian Government who is facilitating the GRP-NDF peace negotiations.
Slattum, in an interview with Davao Today last October 10 said the peace talks between the government and the GRP is moving into a different stage where the two Parties are “focusing more on the substance.”
“There’s still some lingering issues pending on the questions of releases and bilateral ceasefire but this meeting was essentially a work meeting. And despite challenging discussions the parties managed to overcome the hurdles and they were solution-oriented and they reached agreements on frameworks and outlines, in particular for social and economic reforms so that is a good beginning,” she said.
Peace negotiators from both government and the communists concluded its second round of talks with common frameworks and outlines on social, economic and political reforms and a commitment to grant amnesty to more than 400 political detainees on Oct. 9 in Oslo, Norway.
Despite having contentious issues, the second round of talks concluded a day earlier.
GRP panel head and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III described it as a “roller-coaster ride” where both Parties managed to sign another joint agreement.
In the joint statement, the Parties agreed to expedite the release of three remaining NDF consultants who are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees namely, Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio Antalan, and Leopoldo Caloza.
“The GRP shall release the prisoners who are listed by the NDFP in accordance with the CARHRIHL pending the approval of the proposed amnesty for their benefit,” the joint statement reads.
“The GRP Panel affirms its commitment to work for the release of these prisoners in expeditious and acceptable modes,” it added.
Jose Maria Sison, NDF chief political consultant said the amnesty and release of political prisoners “are a matter of justice and compliance with the CARHRIHL.”
The Parties also renewed their commitment to work through their respective ceasefire committees to have a single unified bilateral document within 60 days from August 26, 2016.
“The Parties have likewise reaffirmed their declarations of their respective unilateral indefinite ceasefires,” the Joint Statement reads.
Meanwhile, Slattum said trust between the Parties is still there.
“Of course it’s still there. There are challenging discussions, there are topics that the parties have different opinions on so this is only natural, it is after all negotiations,” she said.
The Parties met in August, after five years of the stalled talks and reaffirmed all previously signed agreements including The Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) in 1996 and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in 1998.
Slattum said both Parties should maintain communication and trust-building.
“The important thing is communication and trust-building, it is important for the parties to have a good dialogue and they really manage to maneuver through the difficult issues through both formal, but also a lot of informal meetings and this is very important,” she said.
Slattum said she believes both Parties are “very good” in communication with each other.
“So far, I would say that the Parties managed to solve their own issues and that is a very good sign and it is very important that the trust be upheld and that the dialogue and closed communication between the Parties continue,” she said. (davaotoday.com)