The 2nd round of formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was held at the Holmen Fjordhotell on 6-9 October 2016. This follows the historic August talks which marked the resumption of negotiations between the two parties after five years of stalemate.
Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, led the GRP delegation, with the panel composed of Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, GRP Panel Chairperson, and panel members Mr. Hernani A. Braganza, Atty. Rene V. Sarmiento, Atty. Angela L. Trinidad, and Atty. Antonio B. Arellano. Panel advisers and consultants, chairs and members of the GRP monitoring committee, reciprocal working groups and working committees, OPAPP officials and secretariat staff made up the rest of the delegation. Six members of the House of Representatives (Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra S.A. Sema, Reps. Ruby Sahali, Jesus Sacdalan, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Nancy Catamco, and Leopoldo Bataoil) and Governor Susan Yap were also present during the talks as observers.
New NDF Panel Chairperson Fidel V. Agcaoili, who replaced former Chairperson Luis G. Jalandoni (now Senior Adviser), led the NDFP delegation composed of panel members Julieta S. de Lima-Sison, Coni K. Ledesma, Asterio B. Palima, and new member Benito Tiamzon, Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison, political consultants, legal consultants and resource persons, chairs and members of the monitoring committee, reciprocal working groups and working committees, an independent observer and secretariat staff.
The 2nd round of negotiations, facilitated by Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Amb. Elisabeth Slåttum of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), essentially built on the results attained during the August talks. While there were complicated issues that needed to be threshed out, it was clear at the end of the day that both parties remained committed to the process. Both Panels considered the 2nd round of talks a success, since they achieved their goal of agreeing on common frameworks and outlines (to be fleshed out later into draft agreements) on socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces. Another important achievement was the progress made in discussing the draft bilateral ceasefire agreement, which they aim to finalize by 26 October 2016, and which is being proposed for signing in Davao by President Duterte.
A Joint Statement was issued and signed at 2 pm during the closing ceremony on Sunday, 9 October, covering the following:
• Releases – the parties agreed to accelerate the process on the release of detained NDFP-listed prisoners, with priority given to those whose release is based on humanitarian grounds (women, the sick, the elderly).
• Amnesty – an amnesty proclamation has been drafted and endorsed to the Office of the President.
• Substantive discussions of the various Working Committees and Working Groups:
a. Reciprocal Working Committees-Socio-Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER) – agreed on a common framework and outline for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)
b. Reciprocal Working Groups-Political and Constitutional Reforms (RWGs-PCR) - agreed on a common outline on PCR, which shall be fleshed out and exchanged by January 2017.
c. Reciprocal Working Groups-End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (RWGs-EDHF) – agreed that the topic outline of the NDFP shall be the common outline.
d. Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) – agreed on undertaking joint activities such as promoting awareness of CARHRIHL, human rights forums and trainings, inclusion of human rights studies in school curriculums, among others.
e. Ceasefire Committees – agreed to exert best efforts to move from separate unilateral ceasefire orders to a unified bilateral ceasefire agreement by 26 October 2016.
After the closing ceremony, an event celebrating the first 100 days in office of President Duterte was hosted by OPAPP with the full support and participation of the Filipino community in the Norway, with a number coming all the way from Sweden. Secretary Dureza’s remarks and a video presentation highlighted the significant progress made in the government’s peace talks with the communists as a major achievement in the first 100 days of the Duterte administration. This could be attributed to the President’s strong political will, sincerity and bold moves, including the release of political prisoners, in pushing the process forward.
Other highlights of the event were the launching of a mobile app for peace and the appointment of Filipino community members in the Nordics as Peace Ambassadors, who will be tapped by the government to promote the PHL peace process and mobilize support for the successful implementation of all peace agreements. Capping the event were stirring renditions of songs of peace by National Youth Commission Chair and popular Filipino performer Aiza Seguerra.