OSLO, Norway – The much-awaited resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has finally taken place on August 22, 2016 in Oslo, Norway with the opening ceremonies at the Nobel Hall of the Holmenkollen Park Hotel.
The opening ceremonies started with the short introductory speech of Special Ambassador to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum welcoming the two delegations and expressing the hope that the resumption will set a strong foundation for the negotiations ahead. She then gave the floor to Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende who welcomed the two delegations on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) that has been acting as facilitator in the peace negotiations.
In his speech, he noted that the armed conflict between the GPH and NDFP has been one of the longest-running armed conflicts in the world. He said that the negotiations will be difficult and will take time.
He reiterated the commitment of the Royal Norwegian Government to give its full support to the peace negotiations and expressed the hope that the two parties will succeed in tackling the substantive issues and arrive at important agreements.
Then Sec. Jesus G. Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process representing the GPH principal President Rodrigo Duterte, and Prof. Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant representing the NDFP principal Mariano Orosa gave their opening statements.
In his speech, Dureza noted the fact that the Philippine conflict has gone on for more than forty years and negotiations for more than 30 years. It is time to end the conflict.
There is a new element that has emerged that gives hope for the success of the present round of talks. That new element is the Duterte presidency.
Sison thanked the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) for having served as third party facilitator of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations since 2001 and for having helped in a big way to keep the peace process alive.
He said that “the NDFP is optimistic that objective conditions and subjective factors in the Philippines are more favorable than ever before for carrying forward the peace negotiations and reaching the ultimate goal of a just and lasting peace through basic social, economic and political reforms.”
He further said that President Duterte won the presidency of his government on the promise of fundamental changes.
“For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a president has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarchy and the folly of servility to foreign powers and by using street language and methods of the mass movement. He is proud to describe himself as the first Left president and as a socialist, willing to seek common ground and cooperation with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”
Sison stressed that the “CPP, NPA and NDFP are ever willing to cooperate with the Duterte government in pursuing the just cause of national and social liberation against foreign and feudal domination…There are great possibilities for the benefit of the people which can be charted and blueprinted by the comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms.”
He said that such reforms would “involve the assertion of national sovereignty and territorial integrity and the abrogation of unequal treaties and agreements; the democratic empowerment of the working people, social justice, economic development through national industrialization and land reform; expanded free public education, a patriotic and progressive kind of culture; international solidarity of all peoples and trade and diplomatic relations with all countries.
“It is not enough to seek the end of hostilities. A just peace must be founded on and sustained by reforms that lift the people from the morass of underdevelopment, social injustice and poverty. In striving for such reforms, we can have truce and cooperation and form a government of national unity, peace and development.”
He ended on an optimistic note saying, “I am confident that the GPH and NDFP negotiating panels will achieve significant success at this resumption of formal talks and will steadily proceed to the ultimate success of the entire peace negotiations.”
This was followed by the opening statements of the heads of the two negotiating Panels Sec. Silvestre H. Bello III for the GPH and Luis G. Jalandoni for the NDFP.
Bello welcomed the resumption of the formal talks after a long hiatus. He noted the fact that the talks have gone on for decades without arriving at a final agreement. He expressed hope that this time it would be different. He stressed the commitment of President to achieve peace under his watch.
Jalandoni said that the NDFP was confident that both negotiating panels, consultants and staff, will be able to take up the agenda agreed upon on the June 15 Joint Statement signed in Oslo. He enumerated following agenda points for the coming five days: 1. Reaffirmation of previous peace agreements; 2. Reconstitution of the list of personnel covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees; 3. Acceleration of peace talks on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces; 4. Amnesty Declaration for the release of all detained political prisoners; and 5. Mode of interim ceasefire
As part of confidence building, he pointed to the agreement stated in the Joint Statement of June 15 regarding the release on humanitarian grounds of the sick and elderly, overly long detained, and women political prisoners and an amnesty proclamation to release all political prisoners being held in GPH jails. It would give an incentive to the revolutionary forces to enter into a ceasefire agreement with the GPH.
On the subject of ceasefire which is another major point of the agenda, Jalandoni said that careful study and discussions are needed to make sure that clear premises, terms and mechanisms are agreed upon in order for the ceasefire to be more stable, less prone to violations and less vulnerable to actual occurrences and allegations of ceasefire violations.
He said that an indefinite and prolonged ceasefire, could amount to capitulation and mere pacification, if there were no substantive incentives for the revolutionary movement and assurance of success in forging satisfactory agreements on social, economic and political reforms.
He likewise ended on a positive note saying: “With the commitment for just and lasting peace, declared by GPH President Rodrigo Duterte and the leadership of the NDFP, Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, we are confident we can decisively move forward towards achieving a just and lasting peace. The Filipino people, our Third Party Facilitator, our peace advocates in the Philippines and abroad, are one with us in aspiring for meaningful reforms like land reform and national industrialization, political and constitutional reforms that will strengthen our independence and national sovereignty, negotiate the end of hostilities, and attain a just and lasting peace.”
A delegation from Migrante International Europe presented to the two negotiating panels a document Agenda of Filipinos in Europe containing the issues dear to the hearts of Filipino migrants. Filipino migrants now number more than 10 million in different parts of the world and their remittances have played a big role in keeping the Philippine economy afloat. The Migante delegation expressed the hope that the two sides will find time and space for their issues in the peace negotiations.
(Full texts of the speeches of Joma Sison and Louie Jalandoni are attached.)
NDFP Media Group