UPDATES ON THE GPH-CPP/NPA/NDF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Formal peace negotiations have not resumed since August 2004 when the NDF withdrew from the negotiating table on account of the renewed inclusion of Jose Maria Sison and the CPP/NPA in the US terrorist list. In an attempt to revive the talks, several rounds of informals were conducted by the Parties through the kind facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), which has been helpful to both sides as Third Party Facilitator for the talks since 2001, in terms of moving the peace process forward.
The informals, however, were stymied by prejudicial questions, impediments and preconditions raised at the negotiating table. In the two rounds of informals held in June and November 2009, the Parties agreed to: (a) work towards the resumption of the formal talks; (b) for GRP to lift the suspension of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG); (c) undertake confidence-building measures for the talks; (d) for GRP to work for the participation of the NDF’s four priority Consultants (Principe, Echanis, Baylosis and Ladlad) in the talks; and (e) hold simultaneous GPH-NDF meetings when formal talks are resumed at various levels: Panels, Reciprocal Working Committees on Socio-Economic Reforms (SER); Working Groups on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR); Working Groups on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EOH/DOF); and the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the CARHRIHL. In line with these commitments, the GRP reactivated the JASIG on 17 July 2009; continued the review of alleged political offenders (APOs) to effect the release of qualified APOs; worked for the release of the abovementioned four NDF priority consultants (note: Baylosis and Ladlad have not surfaced); facilitated the processing of their travel documents; and coordinated with CHR on the cases of disappeared NDF personalities. However, the NDF backtracked from their commitments and insisted on their unreasonable demand that the GRP release their 14 priority Consultants (all facing criminal charges in various courts in the Philippines), before formal negotiations are resumed. The GRP and the RNG communicated their respective messages to the NDF, expressing disappointment over this development.
Despite the continuing impasse in the talks, the GPH remains open to the resumption of the formal talks under the new administration which puts a primacy on the peace process and on human rights. The GRP Negotiating Panel for Talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF was reconstituted on 21 October 2010 and has started preparations for the possible resumption of the formal talks. In line with this, Chair to Chair informal discussions were held in Hong Kong on 1-2 December 2010. They were joined by a Panel member from each side. The following agreements were reached: (1) unilateral Christmas suspension of offensive military operations will be observed by both sides from December 16, 2010 to January 3, 2011; (2) conduct of preliminary/informal talks in January 2011 to pave the way for; (3) the resumption of formal talks in February 2010 in Oslo.
This positive development is expected to revive discussions on the remaining substantive agenda of the talks (SER, PCR and EOH/DOF) to pave the way for the eventual forging of a final political settlement during the term of the Aquino Government. To continuously provide an enabling environment for the talks, the JASIG remains operative since its reactivation on 17 July 2009. Moreover, to further bring a climate conducive to the talks, the GPHPanel is ably supported by various complementary tracks in support of the peace negotiations, particularly through peacebuilding and development interventions in conflict affected communities where a convergence of basic social services and peacebuilding work is being put in place to address the roots of armed conflict.
Update by February 2011:
February 15-21 marked the resumption of the GPH-NDF formal talks after six-long years. At the conclusion of the week-long negotiations, both panels agreed to set an 18-month time frame to complete the talks.
The panels agreed to complete the draft comprehensive agreements on the remaining items of the agenda, such as the socio-economic reforms, political-constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
The two panels have also reactivated the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) on SER that are set to conduct three bilateral meetings in the second week of June and the second and fourth weeks of August 2011, respectively.
On the CAPCR, they agreed to form their respective Working Groups, which will hold their initial session in April 2011 and every two months thereafter. Also, both panels reconvened the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).