“The positive outcome of the formal talks held in Oslo, Norway last week removed the animosity and over suspicion left behind by the two previous administrations.” — Benito Tiamzon
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are looking forward to the second round of formal peace talks with the government.
Speaking in a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Sept. 3, Benito Tiamzon said they are happy with the resumption of GRP-NDFP formal peace talks after five years of impasse.
Benito said the positive outcome of the formal talks held in Oslo, Norway last week “removed the animosity and over suspicion left behind by the two previous administrations.”
Benito said the first round of formal talks was the easiest. He said he expects the next rounds of talks to be tough.
The “Joint Statement on the Resumption of the Formal Peace Talks in the Peace Negotiations” signed by both parties contains five major points.
First is the reaffirmation of previously signed agreements. Second is the reconstitution of the NDFP’s list of individuals protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees. Third is the fast tracking of the peace process and setting the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks. Fourth is the recommendation for President Rodrigo Duterte to declare amnesty for the release of all political prisoners. Fifth is developing their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral document within 60 days after the signing of the Oslo Joint Statement.
Wilma Tiamzon said the second round of formal talks scheduled on Oct. 8 to Oct. 12 will discuss the details of the amnesty proclamation for the release of political prisoners, the mechanisms for the joint bilateral ceasefire and the frameworks for socio-economic and political and constitutional reforms.
Benito said they hope that Duterte will fulfill his promise of releasing all political prisoners as this would further advance the peace negotiations between the two parties.
Wilma said that they expect the release of the three NDFP consultants from the National Bilibid Prison before the second round of talks. She is referring to Eduardo Sarmiento, Leopoldo Caloza and Emeterio Antalan. The NDFP has maintained that the three consultants were convicted of crimes they did not commit.
Wilma said both parties are willing to see eye to eye about socio-economic reforms for the benefit of the Filipino people. She cited agrarian reform, national industrialization, national sovereignty and independent foreign policy as specific issues to be discussed by the negotiating panels.
Asked about the alleged violations by the military to unilateral ceasefire, Benito said the challenge is for both parties to overcome the separate, unilateral ceasefire declarations and work towards a joint bilateral ceasefire.
“What is needed is to remove the conditions that lead to armed encounters. There should be clear mechanisms on how to resolve incidents of violations,” Benito said.
Benito said there are forces who are against addressing the roots of the armed conflict.
Wilma called on the Filipino people to support the peace talks. She said they will hold consultations in different parts of the country.
The NDFP represents underground organizations such as the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) in peace talks with the government.