How to resume talks with communist rebels? January meeting to set agenda

Carmela Fonbuena

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How to resume talks with communist rebels? January meeting to set agenda
The National Democratic Front welcomes 'Little President Salvador Medialdea' in the peace panel and expects to continue disrupted talks for an 'Interim Peace Agreement'

MANILA, Philippines – Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said they are eyeing a formal meeting with government representatives in January to discuss how they’re going to resume peace negotiations.

“The reciprocal unilateral ceasefires are a measure of goodwill and confidence-building to foster the environment for the resumption of the peace negotiations. The formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations may be in the second or third  week of January 2020,” Sison told Rappler. He serves as chief consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the CPP. 

Peace talks aimed at ending half a century of communist rebellion in the country has been on and off for the last 3 decades. The rebels are fighting for land reform and national industrialization. 

President Rodrigo Duterte had previously declared the formal cancellation of peace talks and sought to review key agreements signed during past administrations. He also introduced “localized peace talks,” which the rebels rejected. 

The cancellation of talks was followed by heightened clashes on the ground and ugly word war between Duterte and Sison. Both sides continued backchannel talks, however.

Fidel Agcaoili, chairman of the NDF negotiating panel, said they expect to continue disrupted talks for an Interim Peace Agreement (IPA), which will package the ceasefire agreement, amnesty proclamation, agrarian reform, and national industrialization.  

“That is our understanding. We will continue discussions on the Interim Peace Agreement and its components,” Agcaoili said.  

The IPA was drafted last year by backchannel teams of the government and the NDF, who were looking forward to its signing before it was disrupted again. 

Sison and Agcaoili welcomed the appointment of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea into the “reconstituted” government negotiating panel. 

“I welcome the inclusion of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea in the GRP negotiating panel. I hope that presidential decisions on legal matters will be facilitated by his participation in the peace negotiations,” Sison said. 

Agcaoili said Medialdea, as “Little President” can act as a direct line to Duterte. It is also important that he is a civilian, he said. “It shows that the [government] respects and upholds the democratic principle of civilian supremacy and authority over the military and security sector in pursuing political agenda of peace negotiations to resolve the roots of the armed conflict,” Agcaoili said. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he expects to be reappointed chairman of the government negotiating panel. Duterte sent him to lead all thebackchannel talks in Utrecht. –

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