Metro Manila — Peace talks between the government and the communist movement will resume this month in Rome.
It’s far from the freezing temperatures of Norway, but both parties are in for fiery debates — tackling major issues including a proposed bilateral truce.
Discussions between government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) panels can get intense – some panel members even liken it to a boiler room.
But participants admit, the cold can get in the way of becoming more productive in the peace talks.
“It affects the mood, the tempo, lack of sleep,” NDFP legal consultant Edre Olalia said.
For the first two rounds of talks, a number of panel members fell ill due to pnuemonia, colds and cough as temperatures in Norway can drop to 10 degrees Celsius.
“It was serious, you know why? One third of the room were wearing masks, and people were coughing and coughing all over again. And they couldn’t sleep. People have lost their appetite,” Olalia said.
Anti-Marcos advocate Boni Ilagan was hospitalized in Oslo after suffering from temporary amnesia in 2011.
He fell over hardened snow while filming a documentary about the peace talks.
“I did not quite realize, when I stood up, I could not remember anything. In fact, I panicked, because I could not explain to myself what I was doing in such a strange land,” Ilagan said.
There was even a time when the talks were held inside Norway’s airport.
“Because the elderly people from GRP requested that they don’t want even to go out of the airport, sa sobrang lamig,” Olalia said.
When the talks resume on January 18, it will now be in a warmer city — Rome.
This is upon the request of the two panels.
Other cities like Lisbon in Portugal and Athens in Greece were considered.
Rome, however, had stronger diplomatic ties with Norway, the talks’ facilitator.
“Theres no other reason, except that it wants to make people more comfortable, more condusive to talks, and then para walang mga sickness basically [so there would be no sickness basically,” Olalia said
There were previous proposals to move the talks to Asia.
After all, the two peace agreements with Moro rebel groups were signed in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.
But NDFP chief political consultant Joma Sison can only do limited travel.
As an asylum seeker in the Netherlands, Sison could face sanctions or even arrest in non-European countries.
The third round of talks in Rome will tackle crucial issues such as the bilateral ceasefire agreement and socio-economic reforms.