RWC-SER chair admits readiness for bilateral talks

Posted By: Chris On:

CAGAYAN DE ORO City, July 19, 2011—The chairperson of the government’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) exuded confidence that his committee will be ready to submit its draft socio-economic reform document to its counterpart committee in the National Democratic Front when the two committees meet on August 29 in Oslo, Norway.

Ednar Dayanghirang, RWC-SER co-chairperson and a member of the government peace panel negotiating peace with the NDF, said the committee is now finalizing its draft SER document in time for next month’s bilateral talks.

“We are now finalizing our draft socio-economic reform in time for the bilateral talks in Oslo, Norway scheduled for August 29 up to the third week of September. We are hoping that we, the two committees, will be able to [make] an agreement and come up with one document so we can proceed with the other substantive agenda in the negotiations,” he said in an interview.

There are four substantive agendas in the GPH-NDF talks: (1) Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law; (2) Socio-Economic Reform; (3) Political and Constitutional Reform; and (4) End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

All the substantive agendas are taken up in the negotiations in order, leading to the final peace agreement.

The first substantive agenda had already been completed with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands.

On August 7, 1998, the first Aquino government issued Memorandum Order No. 9 to implement the CARHRIHL. But it was only in 2004 that CARHRIHL was activated with the formation of the GRP-NDF Joint Monitoring-Committee (JMC).

The JMC receives complaints of CARHRIHL violations and monitors the Agreement implementation or the compliance of both parties. It is made up of the GRP and NDF Monitoring Committees, each with a chair, two members and two self-nominated observers from civil society. These MCs conduct separate screenings of complaints and recommend appropriate action. The Joint Secretariat provides staff support.

NDF peace panel vice chairperson Fidel Agcaoili had earlier said that the socio-economic reform agenda in the talks is very crucial to the 24-year-old peace process between the GPH and NDF as this will strategically address the roots of the 42-year-old Communist insurgency, the longest armed struggle in Asia.

“This will help us deal with the causes of underdevelopment in the country. Why do people take up arms? Why are people poor?” he said, adding that issues such as land reform, indigenous people’s rights to self-determination, gender equality and poverty are among those to be discussed by both panels.

“With these reforms, we can free the people. They will have added incomes, stronger purchasing power, higher wages,” Agcaoili said.

GPH RWC-SER member Fr. Albert Alejo, S.J., said in an interview during the 4th National Volunteers Summit at the SouthEast Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN) of the Xavier University last April that the committee was consulting various stakeholders on what to put in the government’s draft because the government peace panel wants the draft document to contain relevant issues, development and solutions that will be acceptable to the NDF.

Alejo said that consultation is really important because the outcome of the negotiations will affect not just the negotiators or their principals but the Filipino nation.

“The people play a very important role in the peace negotiations. It is incorrect to say this is only for the negotiators. The peace process is the business of everybody. The negotiations is not exclusive to only 10 people talking peace because this involves 90 million Filipinos,” stressed Dayanghirang, who pointed out the importance of stakeholders’ inputs in each draft document the peace panel submits to the NDF.

Dayanghirang also said that both GPH and NDF peace panels are one in concluding that an unjust social situation has resulted to the prolonged conflict, which both panels want address, hence the negotiations.

He said this unjust social situation revolved around five issues: poverty, poor delivery of basic services, exploitation of indigenous peoples, inequitable distribution of wealth and resources, and unemployment and underemployment. (Bong D. Fabe)

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