File photo by Edwin Espejo/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is looking forward to the resumption of peace negotiations with “any administration" as formal talks “have been paralyzed” under the Aquino administration, according to its peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao on Thursday, January 14.
“Despite the promise of peace talks under the present administration, [the process] has been paralyzed since 2011,” he said during a forum organized by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and International Alert Philippines. “The NDFP is ever ready to resume formal talks.”
The NDFP negotiates on behalf of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA). The CPP, formed in 1968, is behind Asia’s longest running insurgency.
The peace process between the NDFP and the Philippine government started in 1986 under the administration of Corazon Aquino. After several suspensions – the last one being in 2004 – formal talks between the two parties resumed in February 2011 in Oslo, Norway.
Both parties, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), agreed to a timeframe of 18 months to complete the negotiations under The Hague Joint Declaration, which was signed in 1992.
Open ‘with any administration’
With President Benigno Aquino III’s less than 5 months in office, Malayao said that the NDFP is not expecting the resumption of talks.
But, he stressed, “we are open to negotiate with any administration."
The process however should be “in the context of past agreements,” he added.
The NDFP said the Philippine government – under the Aquino administration – has not honored some of the agreements, mainly the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
“For formal talks to move forward, there should be respect to former signed agreements,” he said. “There has been little to no release made until now.”
The alleged violation of this agreement was highlighted when top leaders of the CPP – Benito and Wilma Tiamzon – were arrested in 2014. The Department of Justice, however, insisted that the JASIG cannot be invoked in the arrest of the Tiamzons as there was no ongoing peace negotiations with the communist group. (READ: DOJ: Tiamzon arrest legal)
Hopeful and committed
“In the absence of formal talks, we can engage in exploratory talks,” Malayao said.
The Royal Norwegian government, which acts as the 3rd party facilitator in the peace process between the NDFP and the Philippine government, remains hopeful that the talks will end well eventually.
According to Elisabeth Slattum, Norwegian Special Envoy to the GPH-NDFP peace process, they “haven’t seen much progress in the process” but they “remain committed.”
“Peace process is not an easy task and it often take many failed attempts," she said.
Norway is also the third party facilitator of the peace talks between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army. The latest talks, which followed 3 previous failed attempts, started in 2012 and have led to agreements covering rural development and political participation, among others.
The final agreement between Colombian government and the rebel group is expected in 2016. This will ultimately retire Latin America's longest running insurgency.
The Norwegian government aims to achieve in the Philippine negotiations what have been done in Colombia.
"Dialogue and cooperation is the most effective and least costly,” Slattum said. "We remain very hopeful that we will achieve progress in the negotiations with NDFP.” – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.