MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government under the Duterte administration will formally begin peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on August 20, 2016.
This was announced by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza during a Malacañang press conference on Tuesday, July 19.
"Formal talks have been firmly set on August 20 to 27... We look forward to engaging with our counterparts in the other side of the table by August 20," said Dureza.
The meeting will take place in Oslo, Norway as the Norwegian government has agreed to facilitate the peace talks.
Dureza called the upcoming meeting a "milestone" given this will be the start of formal peace talks with the Left after 4 years. It seeks to end the longest insurgency in Asia.
The government panel will be chaired by Labor Secretary Silvestre "Bebot" Bello III who was also government panel chair during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
On the side of the Left, the panel chair will be Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator of the National Democractic Front (NDF), the negotiating arm of the CPP.
The agenda of the first meeting will include 5 major points discussed during preliminary talks between Duterte appointees and CPP leaders last June.
These 5 points are:
'Temporary release' of prisoners
In preparation for the start of peace talks, Duterte has ordered various government agencies to facilitate the "temporary release" of 11 political prisoners who are set to participate in the Oslo talks.
"The President had directed yesterday for the different agencies of government to already start working on the temporary release of prisoners who will be participating in the negotiations. But the legal procedures will have to be closely followed," said Dureza.
Previously, Duterte had said he wanted to give safe conduct passes to NPA leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
The peace talks were supposed to begin on July 27, two days after Duterte's first State of the Nation Address.
The government had asked for the date to be moved to the 3rd week of August "to ensure that all technical details related to the formal resumption in Oslo are attended to and addressed by both parties," said Bello in a press release.
Specifically, the government wanted more time to consider the mechanics of the planned nationwide ceasefire and the release of political prisoners," said Bello.
Hernani Braganza, a newly-appointed member of the government peace panel said both parties are "upbeat and optimistic" because of the level of priority the Duterte administration seems to be giving the peace talks. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.