Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum signs the ground rules for the conduct of the meetings of the reciprocal working committees on social and economic reforms, one of the gains of the third round of talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

ROME, Italy — The third party facilitator for the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front lauded the success of the third round of talks held here.

“It is our hope as third party facilitators that the Philippine peace process will be a bright spot in an otherwise bleak world in 2017,” said Elisabeth Slattum, Special Envoy of the Royal Norwegian Government to the Philippine peace process.

Slattum cited the gains of the peace process including its progress in discussing social and economic reforms as she congratulated both panels on Wednesday evening at the closing ceremonies of the talks.

Both Parties have already exchanged their complete drafts on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms which is deemed as the “heart and soul” of the peace process. The parties have started discussing agrarian reform and rural development and sees a completion of the unified draft within this year.

On Wednesday morning, the peace panels also signed the ground rules for the conduct of the meeting of the reciprocal working committees on SER.

“The parties have also exchanged drafts and started comparing notes on the agenda of political and constitutional reforms so the parties are making headway toward addressing the roots of the conflict,” Slattum added.

Among the other gains are: the signing of the supplementary guidelines for the full operationalization of the Joint Monitoring Committee; continuing discussions on bilateral ceasefire and release of political prisoners; and the scheduled meetings in February in Netherlands and in April for the fourth round of talks in Oslo, Norway.

Slattum described the parties as both “constructive and solution-oriented.

“And it is very clear to us as third party facilitators that both sides are genuinely committed to working towards achieving peace,” she said.

However, Slattum warned that there will be setbacks in a peace process.

“Despite the good atmosphere and the willingness and commitment of both sides, it is important not to forget that there will be setbacks along the way. I have yet to witness a peace process where there have not been ups and downs, a peace process that has not been messy, where there have been no clashes on the ground or violations of ceasefire, or publicly expressed frustration,” she said.

Slattum reminded the Parties to deal with the challenges through dialogue.

“This is the only way to move forward here at the negotiations table,” she said.

NDFP peace panel chairman Fidel Agcaoili said while they have basis for “forging ahead in the peace negotiations,” outstanding issues remain including the recent killings of a farmer and indigenous people leader, militarization in the communities and the non-release of political prisoners.

Agcaoili also raised the issue of the death of political prisoners in detention while stressing the need for their immediate release.

For his part, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza reiterated that the road to peace is not smooth.

“There will be humps and bumps along the way but it is very important that we keep the course together,” he said.

He added that the week-long negotiations was “never before done in the past.” (

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