‘Difficult but successful’ round of
talks ends in Rome
January 26, 2017
ROME, Italy—The National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)
concluded their “difficult but successful” round of formal peace talks a
week after it opened, five days of which were spent in “exacting”
The parties said they achieved advances on six major issues listed on
their January 18 common agenda:
• Breakthrough in the discussion of socio-economic reforms and achieving
understanding on its first four items, including agrarian reform and rural
• Signing of the ground rules on the work of the Reciprocal Working
on Socio-Economic Reforms (SER);
• Exchange of drafts and initial discussions on political and
• Signing of supplemental guidelines on the Joint
Monitoring Committee (JMC) for the
Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for
Human Rights and International
• Submission by the GRP of its proposal for a bilateral ceasefire and the
parties’ agreement to discuss it on February in The Netherlands; and
• Agreement to a fourth round of formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway in the
first week of April.
The parties likewise talked about the release of the 392 NDFP-listed
political prisoners with the GRP again committing to facilitate the
release of three remaining NDFP consultants Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio
Antalan and Leopoldo Caloza through presidential clemency or other legal
The GRP and the NDFP also discussed the possible implementation of
socio-economic projects in relation to the Joint Agreement in Support of
Socioeconomic Projects of Private Development Organizations and Institutes
of March 16, 1998.
“The parties have been constructive and solution-oriented. And it is very
clear to us as Third Party Facilitators that both sides are genuinely
committed to work towards achieving peace,” Royal Norwegian Government
Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum said.
“Well, it has been difficult but successful. That is the only way I can
describe this round,” NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said.
Agcaoili clarified though that he expected the successful conclusion of
the negotiations on the supplemental guidelines on the JMC, the tentative
agreement on the PCR, the movement on the discussion on SER as well as on
its ground rules.
“Free distribution of land”
As expected, negotiations on socio-economic reforms took center stage in
the Rome round of talks.
“The RWCs-SER agreed in principle to the free distribution of land to
farmers and farm workers as part of the governing frame of CASER
(Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms),” the parties’ Joint
Statement on the Successful Third Round of Formal Talks Between the GRP
and NDFP in Rome, Italy said.
Earlier, the RWCs-SER reaffirmed their earlier agreement on the Preamble
and the Declaration of Principles (Part I) as the framework of the CASER.
They also identified points of agreement on Bases, Scope and Applicability
(Part II) and reaffirmed their approval of Part II entitled Desired
The committees also reached a common understanding on the general features
of the agrarian problems in the Philippines, incorporated in the Part IV
of the discussions which included land distribution issues.
“While our discussions in the past days have been exacting, we were not
deterred from exploring new ways and other platforms to advance the
talks,” GRP panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III said in describing the
success of the round.
The CASER ground rules “display our seriousness to tackle the agreement on
socio-economic reforms,” Bello said.
Joma “recovering well”
The eight page Joint Statement however is silent on the announced plan of
the GRP to request the United States government to delist NDFP Chief
Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison from its terror list.
Sison was absent in a formal peace talks closing ceremony for the first
time in 25 years,
“We would like to inform you that the chief political consultant of the
NDFP, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, was hospitalized last night,” Slattum said.
“But we can assure you that he is recovering well. And I think I speak for
everybody when I say we hope that he would be back on his feet in the next
few days,” she added to loud applause in the hall.
Bello asked the participants and witnesses of the closing ceremony to
offer a minute of prayer for the fast recovery of Sison.
Bello and GRP panel member Angela Trinidad had to leave the ceremony early
to fly to Kuwait to try to save the life of a Filipino set to be executed
in the said country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)