DAVAO CITY – Both negotiating panels of the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front expressed optimism on the resumption of the formal talks which opened on Monday, August 22, in Oslo, Norway.
The formal talks opened at the Nobel Hall of the Holmenkollen Park Hotel in Oslo. This is the first formal peace talks under the Duterte administration.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the NDF said they are optimistic that the “objective conditions and subjective factors in the Philippines are more favorable than ever before” to forward with the peace negotiations.
He said that President Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency of his government “on the promise of fundamental changes.”
“For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a president has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarchy and the folly of servility to foreign powers and by using street language and methods of the mass movement,” Sison said.
Pres. Duterte’s former professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines said that the president was also “proud to describe himself as the first Left president and as a socialist, willing to seek common ground and cooperation with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”
Sison added that he is confident that both panels will achieve “significant success”.
Meanwhile, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza expressed optimism that the new round of talks would succeed this time with its “new element”, which is the Duterte presidency.
“We are all witness how he (Duterte) had taken bold steps, the unprecedented and historic release of our detainees, to make them available to the negotiations. Even the record time facilitation of foreign travel, not even available to ordinary Filipinos, had been made possible to make the NDF personalities available to the negotiating table,” he said.
Dureza and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, who is the concurrent chairman of the government peace panel with NDF, led the five-member government panel.
Top leaders of the NDF and peace consultants who were temporarily released from detention also joined the opening of the formal talks.
Bello said: “There is no giving up on peace work and peace-making knows no limits,” Bello said.
“We can never have a peace agreement if we do not talk. It will take more than one party to make a peace agreement,” he added.
The agenda of the first meeting in Oslo will include:
- 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;
- Reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list
- Amnesty Proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress; and
- Mode of interim ceasefire.
Dureza said the government panel has imposed a timeline of nine to 12 months based on their common understanding “that will be concretized after the meeting about accelerating the peace process.”
“Meaning, we will do away with the usual sequencing and instead of the original sequence as provided under the Hague Joint Declaration, we will consider a simultaneous discussion of the three remaining substantive issues,” Dureza said.
“With this new approach we are quite confident that we may be able to achieve our timeline,” Dureza said.
‘Humps and bumps’
Luis Jalandoni, chair of the NDF negotiating panel, said they know the road to peace will not be easy.
“The road to peace will have its humps and bumps,” Jalandoni said, adding it will not be smooth-sailing even if they try to accelerate it.
“Perhaps we can do it within nine months or one year. But that will be part, I think, of the discussions this coming five days and subsequent discussions,” he said.
Jalandoni said both sides will have to work on the peace negotiations “with the support of the Filipino people, support and push of President Duterte and also the leadership and constituency of the NDFP CPP NPA.” (davaotoday.com)