MANILA—Government peace negotiators will ask the National Democratic Front (NDF) to re-schedule the resumption of formal peace negotiation from last week of July to third week of August this year to ensure that all technical details related to the talks are addressed by both parties.
"The government peace panel has decided to re-schedule the resumption of formal peace negotiations with the NDF. We will request for a new date, possibly August 20 to 27 this year," said panel chairman and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
"This is to ensure that all technical details related to the formal resumption in Oslo are attended to and addressed by both parties. We want to lay a more formidable and durable foundation for the peace talks, particularly with regard the mechanics that would govern a nationwide ceasefire and the release of political prisoners," Bello said.
Bello noted that members of the government peace panel were sworn into office only last Monday (July 18). The panel includes former Agrarian Secretary Hernani Braganza; former Elections Commissioner Atty. Rene Sarmiento; former Davao City Councilor Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad; and Atty. Noel Felongco, former chair of the National Council on Indigenous People.
According to Braganza, their formal appointment will allow panel members to conduct official consultation meetings with other government offices tasked to lend "legal and expert" assistance to peace negotiations with communist guerrillas.
"We had been working in the background, even before our appointment, to fast-track the process of consultation for the resumption of the peace talks. Now, we can meet formally with other government officials to ensure that the talks will proceed smoothly," Braganza explained.
Both the GPH (Government of the Philippines) and the NDF panels were expected to resume formal peace negotiations in Oslo on July 27, two days after the President's State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA).
The peace negotiations will be hosted by the Royal Norwegian Government, which acts as third party facilitator for the talks.
Even before President Duterte formally assumed office, he already sent Dureza, Bello and Braganza to Oslo last June 13 for an informal meet and preliminary talks with the NDF peace panel.
The talks yielded a discussion framework for the formal resumption of peace negotiations, the agenda of which will include five major points:
* 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 Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list
* Amnesty Proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress
* Mode of interim ceasefire
"Secretary (Jesus) Dureza, (the Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process), had instructed us to hammer out all the details so that the formal resumption will yield the best results, with the end in view of fast-tracking the negotiations," Braganza said.
"We do not expect stumbling blocks for the resumption as it is very clear that there will be no pre-conditions from both parties," he added.
He stressed that the re-scheduling of the resumption will not dampen the unprecedented enthusiasm shown by both sides to finally forge an agreement that would end nearly five decades of armed conflict.
"Both parties are upbeat and optimistic because this will be the first time that the talks have been front loaded by an incoming administration in its agenda, as well as the pronounced sincerity of President Rodrigo Duterte to address the concerns of our brothers in the CPP, NDF and NPA," Braganza said.
"The government likens this stage to a house that President Duterte wants to be built. Let the foundations be sturdy enough that it could withstand any disaster or threat to their stability. So that when we go to Oslo, both parties will just need to add the windows and doors to lasting peace and genuine progress," he added. ###