MANILA, January 26, 2017 (PNA) — The Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) ended the third round of peace talks in Rome, achieving advances in six major issues.
In a joint statement released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the two parties said they achieved the following after a week of meetings from January 19 to 25:
- Breakthrough in the discussion of socio-economic reforms and achieving understanding on its first four items, including agrarian reform and rural development
- Signing of the ground rules on the work of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Socio-Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER)
- Exchange of drafts and initial discussions on political and constitutional reforms
- Signing of supplemental guidelines on the Joint Monitoring Committee for the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
- Submission by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) of its proposal for a bilateral ceasefire and the parties’ agreement to discuss it in February in The Netherlands
- Agreement to a fourth round of formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway in the first week of April.
Both parties talked about the possible release of 392 NDFP-listed political prisoners.
The government also committing to facilitate the release of the three remaining NDFP consultants, namely Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio Antalan, and Leopoldo Caloza.
The three have been convicted of criminal charges but may be released through presidential clemency or other legal means.
The GRP and NDFP also discussed the possible implementation of socio-economic projects related to the Joint Agreement in Support of Socioeconomic Projects of Private Development Organizations and Institutes of March 16, 1998.
Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum said the parties “have been constructive and solution-oriented. And it is very clear to us as facilitators that both sides are genuinely committed to work towards achieving peace.”
For his part, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the talks were “difficult but successful.”
“That is the only way I can describe this round,” he said.
As expected, negotiations on socio-economic reforms took center stage in Rome.
“The RWCs-SER agreed in principle to the free distribution of land to farmers and farm workers as part of the governing frame of Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER),” the joint statement released by OPAPP stated.
GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said while the discussions in the past days were exacting, “we were not deterred from exploring new ways and other platforms to advance the talks.”
The ground rules of the CASER, he added, “display our seriousness to tackle the agreement on socio-economic reforms.”
He later asked the participants and witnesses to the closing ceremony to offer a minute of prayer for the quick recovery of Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair and NDFP chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison, who was hospitalized Tuesday night for flu. (Sammy F. Martin/PNA)