Royal Norwegian Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum with talks to the negotiators of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines before the start of the opening ceremony of the fourth round of the GRP-NDFP peace talks in Radisson Blu Palace Hotel on Monday, Apr. 3, 2017. Also in photos are NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison (left) and NDFP peace panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili (right). (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands — The Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process with the NDFP of the Royal Norwegian Government, Elisabeth Slattum congratulated both peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines for pushing through with the fourth round of talks which opened here Monday, Apr. 3.

“We made it, we are back where we belong at the negotiating table. So, congratulations,” Slattum said addressing the Filipino delegation in Radisson Blu Palace Hotel. Slattum also congratulated President Rodrigo Duterte during her opening speech.

“I would want to congratulate the parties and the president of the Philippines for working through a tough crisis and for showing perseverance, courage and commitment, genuine commitment to the achievement of peace for the benefit of the Filipino people,” she said.

The opening ceremony was held Monday, a day later than the scheduled opening.

The peace panels postponed the opening as they tried to iron out issues on the directives of President Rodrigo Duterte to the government peace panel on Sunday.

Slattum reiterated her points during her closing statement at the third round of talks in Rome, Italy last January 25 where she mentioned about the challenges that the peace panels will be facing as the peace negotiations progressed.

She also commended the Filipino negotiators for being “hard workers” and expressed confidence that the talks will have a good results as it ends on Friday.

“Over the last years we have come to know both parties quite well. They laugh a lot, they joke a lot, they are very pleasant to be around but they are also very hard workers. They show flexibility, they show creativity and they seek solutions where others would just give up,” Slattum said.

But she reminded both panels that disagreements in the peace process cannot be avoided.

“We are not out of the woods quite yet. Crisis will come, new challenges will arise, compromises will have to be made, disagreements are unavoidable but let us take one step at a time, and focus at the end goal which is peace,” she said.

The fourth round of talks is the first formal talks under the Duterte administration which pushed through without a declaration of a ceasefire on either side since it resumed last August.

The talks also got terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte three days after the communists announced that they will lift their unilateral ceasefire declaration on February 1. The Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army announced this after the government failed to fulfill its obligations of releasing the political prisoners and for the government troops “encroachment” of the identified areas where the guerrilla’s bases are.

Clashes between government forces and the guerrilla fighters ensued following the declaration of the all out war against the NPAs.

But the parties engaged in a backchannel talks on March 10 to 11 in Utrecht, The Netherlands where they agreed to continue the formal talks reiterated their reaffirmation of all bilateral agreements and statements made in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, including The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).(

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