MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/25 July) – President Aquino only has less than a year left in his term, but it is enough to forge peace with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, leaders of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum said.
“Lasting peace can be his (Aquino) legacy to the Filipino people. He still has more than 10 months to do that,” the EBF said in a statement issued Friday and signed by Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez Jr. of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Felixberto L. Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and Bishop Elmer Bolocon of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines.
“No less than the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., believes that “peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines – National Democratic Front can still be done within the remaining term of office of President Benigno Aquino III,” the statement said citing a July 20 news report by the state-run Philippine News Agency.
Belmonte and other House leaders took time to meet with NDFP leaders in the Netherlands during the hearing of the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos) of the territorial case between the Philippines and China concerning the West Philippine Sea.
The bishops echoed Belmonte’s optimism that peace negotiations can still be done during the remainder of Aquino’s term.
They said the openness of new Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri to the resumption of the peace talks with the NDFP, as reported in media, has added to the “favorable atmosphere”.
“We hope and pray that this declaration is not simply a motherhood statement from one who is newly appointed to a key office because he is expected to say something positive for the people to court their confidence and support. The good general knows too well the need ‘for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and long term peace in our country’ as he has stated,” they added.
The statement said another positive note for peace was the position of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison declaring full support to the Philippine government’s move to bring its problem with China over the West Philippine Sea to the UN ITLoS.
Sison recently signed the statement of Filipinos in the Netherlands which said: “We, Filipinos and friends of the Filipino people in the Netherlands, stand together in upholding the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Motherland, and in defending the Filipino people’s sovereign rights over their exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea, now being illegally claimed and encroached upon by China.”
Like Malacañang, Sison spurned China’s position for bilateral talks between the two nations, saying such move would be futile given Beijing’s insistence that it has indisputable sovereignty over 90 percent of the South China Sea.
However, the statement noted that there has been no feedback from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to the feelers sent by the NDFP leaders on their willingness to resume the stalled peace talks soon.
“If the primary agency which is OPAPP does not lead, what can the Filipino people expect?” it said.
The NDFP called off peace talks with government over the latter’s refusal to release the underground alliance’s “peace consultants” who it said are covered by the GPH-NDFP Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG.
Since 1986, the government and the NDFP have engaged in intermittent peace negotiations in a bid to resolve Asia’s longest-running insurgency.
The New People’s Army, armed wing of the CPP, has been waging a rural-based armed struggle since 1969.
It is most active in Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and Caraga Region. (MindaNews)