MANILA, June 18 (PNA) – After 17 months in the back burner, the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) resumed their informal talks in Norway over the weekend, with both sides agreeing to discuss major issues in their next meeting, particularly the forging of a ceasefire agreement.
In an interview with the Philippines News Agency, Undersecretary Efren Montalbo, a member of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel, described the meeting as “meaningful,” although no agreement was reached but both sides vowed to pursue the negotiations.
Montalbo said no date has been set for the next round of talks. The last time the two sides met was in February 2011 that ended in a stalemate
He said Alexander A. Padilla, the chair of the government peace panel negotiating with the NDF, objected anew to the use of landmines by the New People’s Army (NPA) in combat that had killed innocent civilians in the crossfire.
The United Nations (UN) has banned the use of landmines because of its destructive effects to non-combatants, killing even women and children.
Padilla also raised another major concern: NPA rebels attacking business firms and burning their equipment for failure to pay “revolutionary tax.”
The NDF has signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), yet it continues to violate the accord.
The government peace panel chairman has viewed the prospects of renewed talks with the NDF with guarded optimism.
“After such a long impasse marked by distrust and misunderstanding, this is a welcome development, an opportunity for a new beginning. We look forward to more meaningful discussions with the hope that it will lead to productive formal talks,” Padilla said. “We have wasted 25 years fighting each other rather than working together for our people.”
During the meeting in Oslo, Norway, the NDF raised the issue on the release of political detainees.
The Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) is the third party in the negotiations between the Philippine government and the NDF.
The RNG invited former Sen. Wigberto Tanada as observer, being a “common friend of both panels.”
After a two-day meeting, the parties agreed to meet again informally to continue “meaningful discussions” toward the resumption of formal talks.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said that the NDF, led by chairman Luis Jalandoni and Jose Maria Sison, its chief political consultant, pressed anew for the release of most, if not all 14 political detainees.
The NDF said these detainees are their consultants in the peace process. It also raised the need to reconstruct its list of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee or JASIG-protected members after the failure of the verification process in July last year rendered their original list of 85 alias-bearers inoperative.
The NDF also put on the table for further discussion a possible arrangement for “truce and alliance” which it has been floating since 2011.
Both the GPH and the NDF responded positively to a suggestion made by Tanada to discuss the possible implementation of the Joint Agreement in Support of Socio-Economic Projects of Private Development Organizations and Institutes to bring progress and prosperity in conflict areas.
This agreement was signed by the parties in 1998 but its implementation has been held in abeyance pending the approval of their respective principals. (PNA)