Duterte gov’t, NDF set peace talks for July

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(File photo) Peace negotiators sent by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to Norway open preliminary talks with the National Democratic Front.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The incoming government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF)  have signed a joint statement  to resume formal peace talks this July.

The dialogue is set on the third week of July in Oslo, Norway, according to the document posted Thursday by incoming Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on his Facebook page. Dureza led the peace delegation sent by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

“I have commissioned them to go to Oslo … to hold the preliminary talks there. For the broader framework to talk about, and to accompany maybe, Jose Maria Sison in coming home,” Duterte said in May.

The joint statement was the result of two days of preliminary talks held Tuesday and Wednesday in a hotel on the outskirts of Oslo. Day 1 ended with a “shared optimism” on both sides, which resulted in a formal agreement the following day.

The parties agreed  to discuss the following agenda during the resumption of peace talks next month:

  • An accelerated process for negotiations, which includes coming up with a timeline for the completion of socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms, and putting an end to hostilities and disposition of forces
  • Reconstitution of the Joint Agreement of Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG), allowing NDF consultants and rebel leaders to freely move around the Philippines without the risk of being arrested.
  • Amnesty for political prisoners, subject to concurrence of the Congress
  • Possible implementation of interim ceasefire
  • Affirmation of previously signed agreements

 

Under the joint statement, the incoming peace negotiators will recommend to Duterte the immediate release of all political prisoners and detainees, particularly those they have identified as consultants in the negotiations. This has been on top of the rebels’ demands for the talks to move forward.

Watch: Duterte seeks general amnesty for political prisoners

The agreement was signed by Dureza, incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, the chief government negotiator, and former Pangasinan Congressman Hernani Braganza, representing the GPH.

The rebels’ emissaries were Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder, Jose Ma. Sison, NDF Spokesman Fidel Agcaoili and its negotiating panel chairman Luis Jalandoni. The NDF, the political arm of the CPP, represents the rebels in peace negotiations to end the 47-year-old insurgency waged by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Related: Duterte readies for Philippine peace talks restart as rebel team arrives

Norwegian Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum, signed as a witness. Norway is facilitating peace talks between the government and the rebels led by Sison, who has been in self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987.

Peace talks under Duterte gov’t

The Duterte government will be the sixth administration to talk with the NDF in a bid to end the communist movement’s armed struggle.

NPA rebels and government forces have figured in violent clashes for decades, including the 1987 “Mendiola Massacre,” which killed 13 farmers after a bloody dispersal. This prompted the NDF to walk away from the talks under then President Corazon Aquino.

Negotiations went on and off  in the succeeding administrations.

Aquino’s son, incumbent President Benigno Aquino III, managed to resuscitate peace talks in 2011, only to break down again after the government and rebels could not agree on the release of all political prisoners and socio-economic reforms.

After over five years, Duterte, a self-described left-leaning leader, is bringing renewed hope to a possible peace deal as he has reached out to the rebels even before assuming presidency. He also offered four Cabinet posts to the CPP and the NDF has already submitted its nominees.

 

CNN Philippines' David Santos contributed to this report.