BAGUIO CITY — Religious leaders convened here recently saw that both panels in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the communist rebel groups are optimistic of the resumption of the talks despite conditions that need ironing out.
Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Ilocos church leaders were in town for the Northern Luzon Regional Workshop on Peace Baguio CityDecember 5 and 6.
Organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) with support from the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform (NEPP), the workshop aimed to help push forward the peace process by calling on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume formal peace talks.
During the workshop representatives from both parties enlightened the church on the scenario since the peace talks was stalled in August 2004.
Paulyn Sicam of the GRP Peace Panel mentioned relations were cordial in the latest informal talks with the members of the NDFP panel, in Oslo, Norway last November 28-30.
Sicam told the participants, “While we failed to reach consensus with the NDFP on the modality of the ceasefire, the parties overcome other difficult issues such as the return to the negotiating table with specific agenda and time frame, the restoration of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the full operationalization of the JMC. However, with the stalling of the talks on the issue of ceasefire, these agreements are on hold until both sides can agree on when formal talks can be resumed.”
Marissa Dumanjug-Palo, head of the joint secretariat, NDFP-Joint Monitoring Committee, read the December 4, message of Louis Jalandoni, chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel entitled, “Formal talks to negotiate substantive reforms must not be preconditioned and negated by protracted ceasefire.”
Jalandoni stated, “The GRP panel statement of December 3, on the informal talks held in Oslo on November 28-30 is highly deceptive, misleading and duplicitous. The GRP panel preconditioned the resumption of the formal talks and the reaffirmation of JASIG and the other previously signed agreements to a prolonged ceasefire.
The protracted ceasefire that the GRP seeks to impose on the NDFP violates The Hague Joint Declaration and is diametrically opposed to the NDFP proposal for immediate and comprehensive truce previously proposed by the NDFP, according to Jalandoni. “With its 10 points of principle, the agreement for an immediate just peace is meaningful and beneficial to the people, unlike the concept of the GRP which merely wants to pacify the people’s resistance and prevent substantive negotiations,” he said.
During the panel discussion,participants were surprised that the GRP panel never saw the Operation Bantay Laya plan of the military. Sicam accepted that the panel still needs to unite the different government units like the military on the peace agenda.
It was clear to the participants that both parties are open to the resumption of formal peace talks but their respective conditions still have to be ironed out. A major item on the agenda of their talks must consider the root causes of the conflict.
The participants shared varied experiences they have encountered on issues such as violations of human rights, the degradation of their land due to destructive mining, the unfulfilled genuine land reform program, among others.
The consultation ended with a commitment to strengthen ecumenical efforts to advocate for peace based on justice in the region as summarized by the conference statement entitled: “A Statement of our Time.” # Reccord Release