Government begins formal peace talks with communists

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The resumption of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations in Oslo has been described as historic as it also served as a venue for the reunion of Filipino Marxist leaders who assumed top positions in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).      

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippine government (GPH) resumed formal negotiations in Oslo, Norway on Monday to seek peace with the National Democratic Front (NDF), hoping to forge a settlement in order to end Asia's longest running communist insurgency.

Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who is concurrent GPH chairman, led the five-member government panel that met with NDF leaders — some of whom flew directly from the Philippines immediately after being released on bail.

"We are all here, in a foreign land, to reignite the lost sparks that were there before as both parties search for political settlement and peace. The last talks were five years ago and in all these peace efforts spanning under six presidencies, we had breakdown of talks due to preconditions," Dureza said.

"Why are we here today, doing the same thing and hoping to get the same result? If we look at where we are today, there is a new element: the Duterte presidency. There is also a fresh euphoria among our people about the prospects of peace negotiations," he added.

Bello, on the other hand, noted that President Duterte has made the mission of the government panel very clear: help bring peace to the Filipino people.

"We can never have a peace agreement if we do not talk. It will take more than one party to make a peace agreement," Bello said.

The resumption of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations in Oslo has been described as historic as it also served as a venue for the reunion of Filipino Marxist leaders who assumed top positions in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).      

For the first time in 30 years, founding Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Chairman Jose Maria Sison huddled under roof with three other guerilla leaders who — according to the military, once served as party chairman — Benito Tiamzon, Allan Jasmines, and Rafael Baylosis.

The meeting in Oslo from August 22 to 26 will be the first formal peace talks under the Duterte administration. This comes on the heels of informal talks earlier also held in Norway, where the rebels agreed to resume negotiations with the government.

The agenda of the first meeting will cover five major points:

  • Affirmation of previously signed agreements
  • Accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks: socio-economic reforms; political and economic reforms; and end of hostilities and disposition of forces
  • Reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list
  • Amnesty Proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress
  • Mode of interim ceasefire