Bandillo: The 5th round of Peace Talks


I will be attending the 5th Round of GRP-NDFP Peace Talks at Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands on May 27-June 1, 2017. I just received my international plane ticket and insurance courtesy of the Royal Norwegian Government, the third party facilitator in the ongoing GRP-NDF Peace Talks. The venue of talks is a charming beach town on the north coast of The Netherlands. The place offers picturesque vistas of the North Sea from large in-room windows.

It would be interesting to share some sidebar or a glimpse of what happens during talks from arrival to billeting, food, security, among others. So what are the usual preparations the GRP-NDF talks?

Everyone – NDFP and GRP delegates – shall be welcomed by NOREF or Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution representatives at the Schiphol Amsterdam International Airport. The Social and Economic Reforms (SER) delegates will arrive two days ahead than the rest. I will be joining the PCR (Political and Constitutional Reforms) batch which arrive 2 days after. The Archbishop of Tuguegarao, Most Rev Sergio Utleg, DD, along with SAC Director Rev Fr. Manuel Vicente Catral will be attending as independent observers.

The agenda and daily schedule have to be finalized and agreed upon by both Panels. I surmise that the GRP would insist on putting ceasefire as top agenda while the NDFP will press that SER and PCR be given much weight. So the key issues will be review of recent past agreements, the social, economic and political reforms and the ceasefire question. The final agreed agenda shall be announced at the beginning of talks.

As in Oslo and Rome rounds, several events are also being planned by our Filipino communities in Amsterdam and The Hague. But these could only be announced after the final agenda and schedules are finalized by both panels.

After the formal talks in Noordwyjk, there shall be post-talks consultations of the NDFP at The Hague.

The weather is one of the factors in selecting the venue of talks. The 3rd Round was held in Rome to avoid the freezing weather in Oslo. The Hague is 16°C maximum and the average night-time temperature is usually a cold 7°C (45°F). Spring weather is still cold especially in the evening. Rains are part of spring season. Thus, we should bring sweaters and warm clothings and jackets, and raincoats or umbrellas for protection from sudden unpredictable rain.

We are advised to take care of our own personal needs, eg. toiletries, towels, etc. Laundry soap will be very useful. Medicines are expensive in The Netherlands so bringing basic medicines for coughs, cold, fever and allergies and vitamins would be sound. Those with illness should bring medications, the amount of which should be enough while we are outside the Philippines. Bring prescriptions for medicines (eg. antibiotics, among others) in case of airport control. Dietary requirements or any food allergies must be relayed. In case of medical emergencies, the RNG and the NDF secretariat shall be ready to respond. If there is a health facility free for use by guests, it is encouraged that we use it including walking around the premises and doing exercise.

The RNG will not pay for personal laundry, paid movies on TV in the hotel room, any drink from the bar or room refrigerator (also consuming drinks other than what is served during meals), any other extra room service (except medical needs), or use of any hotel facility that is not provided free to guests. We have to pay for these ourselves. For gadgets, it pays to bring European-compatible outlet adaptors for our laptop or telephone accessories.

In most hotels, it is common to see Filipinos as part of their work force. We should, if time permits, immerse with and engage them in small conversation to know their work conditions, etc., and reach out in a way they will understand about our struggle back home and the peace talks we are engaged in.

Amsterdam and The Hague are relatively safe cities. The Hague is the seat of government. Authorities are strict with security. ID or a copy of our passport, whether we are inside or outside of the hotel must be with us always. Everyone must secure their own papers, equipment, valuables, gadgets, and other belongings. These are not to be left unattended. Alertness pays. During 3rd round of talks in Italy, we have had an experience with “salisi” gangs of Rome. Observe security rules at all times. Combat complacency.

We look forward to another successful round of GRP-NDFP talks at Noordwijk aan Zee. This column will report on the developments as it unfolds. #


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