Gov't panel meets Duterte before critical 3rd round of NDF talks
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The government panel talking peace with the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) met with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, January 16, before they flew to Rome for the 3rd round of talks set for January 19 to 25.
Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said the President instructed them to fast-track the talks.
"President Duterte has instructed the government panel to work for an early settlement of the issues as he calls on the nation to provide support to the efforts to ultimately bring peace in the land," Dureza said in his statement on the 3rd round of talks.
It is expected to be a critical round as communist rebels are warning of the possible collapse of the 5-month ceasefire between the military and the New People's Army (NPA). (READ: Gov't in backchannel talks to protect ceasefire with Reds)
They are also proposing a new timeline that will extend the talks by at least two more years, bucking government pronouncements that a final deal should be signed by August 2017 (READ: No peacedeal expected soon as NDF extends timeline of talks)
The communists have complained about the delayed release of political prisoners and alleged ceasefire violations by the military. (READ: Gov't in backchannel talks to protect ceasefire)
"These issues, although difficult, are surmountable with both sides sharing common aspirations for peace," Dureza said.
"The preparatory work and engagements by both sides respectively headed by Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Fidel Agcaoili even before the 3rd round of talks auger well for possible significant progress with the hosting and facilitation of the Norwegian team headed by Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum," Dureza added.
Documents to be submitted
The government panel was expected to submit to Duterte the draft documents tabled for discussion during the talks in Rome.
The following draft agreements were expected to be submitted to Duterte:
- Comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms
- Comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms
- Comprehensive agreement on end of hostilities and disposition of forces
"We are doing this in the spirit of true reconciliation and genuine quest for just and lasting peace," Bello said in a statement before the meeting with Duterte.
"We are all set and ready to engage the NDF in the discussion of all substantive agenda including supplemental agreements needed to proceed and arrive at a peaceful negotiated political settlement to end the armed conflict in the country," he added.
Joint ceasefire deal
Despite NDF protests, Bello aims to sign in Rome the joint bilateral ceasefire deal that both camps originally scheduled to put in place by October 2016.
"We are challenging the NDF to formalize the unilateral ceasefire with a bilateral ceasefire agreement to give our communities and combatants a more secure environment for the peace process," Bello said.
The two panels are also set to sign a supplemental agreement on the already signed Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) to include the expanded role of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).
The JMC is the body tasked to monitor the ceasefire. – Rappler.com