THE Philippines government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) were lauded by the Norwegian government for their strong commitment to pursue the peace talks as the negotiations moves to the more challenging and substantial part.
Speaking at the opening of the third round of talks at the Holiday Inn in Rome, Italy on Thursday, facilitator and Norwegian Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum said members of both panels have shown great willingness, dedication and courage to work for peace in the Philippines.
Seeing the draft documents of the agenda items, Slattum said both panels are ambitious and want a better future for the Filipinos. Based on the drafts, the Norwegian official is positive that both panels are few steps closer to achieving the common goal of just and lasting peace.
Slattum cited few achievements of the peace talks. In just a few months, she said, the parties already made history with each side’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire; the release of 19 NDF consultants that boost the peace talks; and the reaffirmation of the previous agreements to accelerate a final peace agreement.
For the third round, Slattum hoped both panels would reach consensus on the socio-economic, and political and constitutional agenda items to address the root causes of the conflict.
Qc mayor joins panel
Mayor Herbert Bautista of Quezon city attended the opening ceremony of the third round of formal talks as one of the Philippine government panel advisers and observers.
In his opening remarks, the Philippine government Negotiating Panel Chairperson and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III acknowledged Bautista as first among all government panel advisers and observers.
“Let me also mention, Your Excellencies, we have with us our two able advisers, in the person of Mayor Bautista and, of course, another adviser…[Angeles City] Mayor Ed Pamintuan,” Bello said, addressing Slattum and Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Erik Forner.
Appointed as adviser for local government concerns last August for his experience as long-time Quezon City executive, Bautista is also a national security expert who was recently promoted to Colonel in the Reserve Command of the Philippine Army. Bautista is a member of the Philippine government panel’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms, the most substantive agenda in the peace negotiations.
“I wish to contribute to addressing the root causes of the armed conflict in our country and hope to bring local government and community-based solutions for the achievement of a just and lasting peace for the Filipino people,” Bautista said.
For a common goal
Amid unresolved issues on the releases and bilateral ceasefire, Slattum urged them to jointly solve problems and work together for a common goal.
Slattum reminded both panels that a peace process is not a zero sum game where there is one winner and one loser.
“A successful peace process is when both parties come out on the winning side,” she said, adding, however, that either side may not be perfectly content of the outcomes because some decisions they have to make will not be popular.
“Both sides make painful consensus along the way. Both sides need a great deal of courage,” she pointed out. “Much is at stake for both parties,” she said.
This is why, Slattum said, the peace process needs the patience, support and involvement of the Filipino people.
She said it is not easy to negotiate peace; thus, most attempts failed miserably around the world. Most, she said, find it easier to continue with war rather than to continue working and sacrificing for peace.
Slattum, however, noted that once a peace negotiation is successful, the reward is immeasurable and for the long-term—the winner is the Filipino people.
Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Erik Forner also looks forward to a fruitful and constructive talks in the third round.
Forner emphasized the importance of dialogue and negotiations as essential parts of the process even in circumstances of armed conflict and strong disagreement. Norway, he said, recognizes that stable and lasting peace require political processes and negotiated solutions.
While overcoming differences and to make a lasting peace is not easy as the conflict already caused lives and human sufferings in 48 years in the Philippines, Forner, said the commitment demonstrated by both panels to do more is already an assurance that the peace process will move forward.
He said they are aware of the differences to overcome within the next few days when substantial items are pushed on the table. But, he said, “we will manage our expectations, yet we are rest assured that all of you will do your very best to move the process forward.”