Closing speech for the fourth round of peace negotiations

Noordwijk an Zee, The Netherlands, 6 April 2017
By Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson, Negotiating Panel of the NDF

Her Excellency Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum, Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process, and her team of facilitators from the Royal Norwegian Government,
Compatriots in the Negotiating Panels and Delegations of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),
Esteemed guests and friends,

We are concluding a successful fourth round of formal talks. I will not mince words when I say it has been a difficult four days of peace negotiations. We came to this fourth round of formal talks determined as ever to push the forging of substantive agreements on basic reforms, specifically the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms so that both we in the NDFP and the GRP can firmly address – and redress – the chain of issues that lie at the roots of the armed conflict.

But to break the two-month impasse in the peace negotiations that resulted from the lifting of both sides’ unilateral ceasefires, we have decided to exercise maximum flexibility while staying firm on principles and work with the GRP Negotiating Panel to sign an Agreement on Interim Joint Ceasefire. Yesterday, on April 5, 2017, the two parties signed the agreement outlining the objectives, guidelines and ground rules for crafting the interim joint ceasefire agreement.

The document we signed yesterday is not yet a ceasefire agreement but it is a significant step toward making an interim joint ceasefire agreement. Our respective ceasefire committees are expected to immediately flesh out the terms and mechanisms for the interim joint ceasefire agreement. Their work will not be a walk in the park in view of the many concerns relating to escalating militarization and human rights violations in communities.

But what is important is that we continue to talk even while fighting, in view of the absence of any ceasefire declaration. What is important is that we do not lose sight of the substance of peace, which is not equivalent to the silencing of the guns.

It is good that in this round of the negotiations, the Reciprocal Working Committees of Social and Economic Reforms have firmed up free land distribution as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform. Both parties have agreed to accelerate the forging of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and formed bilateral teams to work on the draft in a neutral venue in Manila.

The NDF looks forward to further steps by our counterpart to overcome serious obstacles that hamper the progress of the negotiations, which relate to the enforcement of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG as well as the standing commitments contained in the previous Oslo and Rome joint statements of the negotiating panels.

Before I end, on behalf of the NDF Panel, I thank again the Royal Norwegian Government for its untiring support for the peace process in the Philippines. The road to peace is not a straight line, and we commend Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum and her team of facilitators for working hard to connect all the dots together to move the peace process forward.

Maraming salamat po. Thank you.