DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 June) – The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) will resume formal peace talks on the third week of July in Oslo, Norway.
The talks next month will be the first under the administration of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, although his Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza and Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison had held preliminary talks this month.
Sison announced the formal resumption of peace negotiation in his video message on the last day of the peace forum Tuesday at the Davao City Recreation Center (popularly called Almendras Gym).
Thousands of members of progressive organizations from across Mindanao attended the forum and peace march in Davao City on Tuesday
Militants rally for peace in Davao City on June 28, 2016. Photo courtesy of Jean M. Mordeno
But NDF spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili, speaking in the same forum said the resumption of peace talks might be moved to the fourth week.
“We need more time with regard to the release of the consultants,” he said, referring to NDF officials who are being detained and whose release the revolutionary alliance has been demanding as precondition [for the resumption of talks].
Sison said both parties are expected to take up the affirmation of previously signed agreements, the plan to accelerate the peace negotiations on the three remaining items of the substantive agenda, release of all political prisoners by general amnesty, and the ceasefire.
Sison, Duterte’s professor on Political Thought, said he was happy with the results of the preliminary talks last June 14 and 15 in Oslo.
“Let us look forward to the success of the first formal talks in the time of the Duterte government. The success of these will lead to further hard work by the principals, negotiators, consultants, ceasefire monitors and other focused personnel of the negotiating parties and to further inputs and support from all the peace-loving forces and people,” he said.
Sison expressed optimism over the prospects of the peace negotiation under the Duterte administration, and that they wanted to seize the opportunity.
Lumad women from Bukidnon join the peace rally in Davao City on June 28, 2016. Photo courtesy of Jean M. Mordeno
“Let us take advantage of a new situation in which the worsening crisis of the ruling system, the growing strength of the people’s revolutionary movement and the failures of previous administrations have brought about a president who is courageous and proud to say that he (Duterte) is the first Left president of the Philippines and is willing to adopt and implement the necessary reforms for a just and lasting peace,” he said.
He noted that peace negotiations did not succeed under former presidents Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as well as under outgoing President Benigno S. Aquino III who he said lacked the political will to overcome their “reactionary interests and use their power and resources toa dvance the peace process.”
Remove CPP-NPA from terror list
Agcaoili told a press conference on Monday that the Philippine government should ask the US government to remove the Communist Party of the Philippines from its list of terrorist organizations to allay fears that Sison might be interdicted in a foreign airport on his way home.
“The US has reiterated its declaration against the CPP-NPA – and Joma – as a terrorist organization. There are spoilers and security risks. If the government is interested to have Joma come home to be able to talk to the president, they should raise it formally,” he said.
The inclusion of the rebel group in the US terrorist watchlist has made Sison’s return “a ticklish issue” and difficult to do.
He said they wanted an assurance the US will not intervene in such a way that will derail the peace negotiations.
“There should be a guarantee from the Dutch government, Norwegian government, and the US government to respect the sovereignty of the Filipino people in their desire to pursue a just and lasting peace by allowing SIson to come home without interference,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)