Philippines, rebels agree to resume peace talks

Rappler.com
The negotiating panels for the peace talks between the Philippine government and left-leaning National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have agreed to engage in discussions before the formal peace talks resume

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The negotiating panels for the peace talks between the Philippine government and left-leaning National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have agreed to engage in “meaningful discussions,” which pave the way the resumption of formal negotiations.

Involved in these talks are the communist rebels waging one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies. This recent meeting between the rebel’s political arm, the NDFP, and their government counterparts broke a 6-month impasse.

“The Parties have agreed to continue meaningful discussions of concerns and issues raised by both sides…to pave the way for the resumption of the formal talks in the peace negotiations in order to resolve the armed conflict and attain a just and lasting peace,” the NDFP said in a statement released on Saturday, June 16 (Sunday, June 17 in Manila).

The two panels are in Norwegian capital of Oslo and met on June 14 and 15 “in an effort to pave the way for the resumption of formal talks between the panels,” the statement said.

The peace talks cover socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

NDFP, chaired by Luis Jalandoni, is a coalition of left learning groups and has its own military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). Its demands included the release of 356 political prisoners and 14 NDFP consultants who should also be covered by immunity from arrest.

It also asked for an independent investigation into extrajudicial killings, and the rectification of the “terrorist group” listing by foreign governments, including the United States.

The statement added that the group was also prepared to implement a joint ceasefire offered by the government, but gave no dates of when such a move would take place.

The government’s chief negotiator for the rebels, Alexander Padilla, was not immediately available for comment.

The NDF is the political front of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has waged a Maoist rebellion since 1969 that has left thousands dead and has cost the national government hundreds of millions of pesos.

Its leader, Jose Maria Sison, has been in self-exile in the Netherlands for over two decades and Norway has been hosting the on-again-off-again talks.

The government has said the movement’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), is largely deflated after years of losses in the battlefield with only about 4,000 fighters nationwide as of 2011 from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s.

President Benigno Aquino’s government re-opened peace talks with the communists in February last year, with both sides agreeing to work towards a June 2012 deadline to sign a peace deal.

But the talks were bogged down by the communists’ demand to release detained comrades and a string of deadly rebel attacks.

In April, the guerrillas launched their most audacious strike in recent years, killing 11 soldiers and a civilian in an ambush on three army convoys led by a senior military official in Luzon island. – Rappler.com and Agence France-Presse