ROME, Italy—The Norwegian government lauded the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) for their strong commitment to pursue the peace talks as it moves to more challenging and substantial part of the negotiations.
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, Slattum is positive that both panels are few steps closer to achieving a common goal of a just and lasting peace.
She cited few achievements of the peace talks. In just a few months, Slattum 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.
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 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, however, 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.”
As broker of the GRP-NDF peace negotiations since 2001, Forner said their support will continue for a long term, especially now that the Philippines and Norway enter the 10th year of diplomatic relations next year. He vowed that the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) would continue to stand by the GRP and NDF during the peace process. ###