MANILA – While the Philippine government and communist leaders have not signed off on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms (CASER), both parties were able to take steps forward, and agreed on an interim joint ceasefire at the conclusion of the 4th round of peace talks in Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands on Thursday (Manila time).
Aside from agreeing to lay down arms, both parties’ achievements in the 4th round of talks included firming up agreements on the free distribution of land as the basic principle of genuine land reform, scheduling meetings in Manila on socioeconomic reforms, and setting the next round of talks on May 27 until June 21.
“The Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill should be taken into account, and make a new land reform law…in the forthcoming round...[both parties] shall discuss and work on the remaining items under the agrarian reform and rural development for national industrialization, and national economic development,” said Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, who is chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
In their joint statement, both parties also said that they remain committed to exploring all options for the release of political prisoners.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said that this series of talks let the government reach “the farthest point” so far in negotiations with the Communists.
According to Elisabeth Slattum, the Norwegian government’s facilitator, while the peace negotiations were “intense, challenging, and at times difficult,” they still believe that the only way to resolve the conflict between the Philippine government and the Reds is “through dialogue and political processes.”
She praised both parties’ “genuine commitment” to the peace process, which they showed by working together to reach a compromise, and by persevering and not giving up.
Slattum also reiterated Norway's commitment to help both parties reach an agreement.
The government and communists’ interim joint ceasefire agreement will take effect upon the approval and signing of the ground rules, and will be effective until a permanent ceasefire agreement is forged. - with reports from Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN News