NEGOTIATORS from the incoming Duterte administration and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) have agreed on terms of peace talks that will resume in July, including the release of 500 political prisoners and 20 NDF consultants.
After two days of exploratory talks, the panels led by incoming presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza and CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison issued a joint statement indicating their decision to tackle “thorny issues” that snagged previous negotiations.
“Formal peace talks will resume in the third week of July in Oslo, Norway, and shall be conducted in accordance with previously signed agreements by the parties,” the statement, copies of which were shared with the media, said.
Besides Dureza and Sison, Silvestro Bello 3rd and Hernani Braganza for the Duterte government and Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni for the NDF signed the document.
Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum, special envoy of the Norwegian government to the peace process, also signed the joint statement.
Among the issues the panels will discuss during the formal talks include an amnesty proclamation for the release of all political prisoners subject to concurrence by Congress, mode of interim ceasefire, affirmation of previously signed agreements, accelerated process of negotiations and reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list.
Initially, the panels agreed to recommend the release of consultants and political prisoners to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte once he has assumed the presidency.
In a television interview, Jalandoni said the joint statement is a great leap forward in the pursuit of lasting peace and development.
“Napakahalaga dahil ito ay response na rin ng kilusan, ng Pilipinas, yung CPP-NPA-NDF sa initiative ni President-elect Duterte. So, nandyan yung rebolusyonaryong kilusan na handa makipagalyansa, makipagtulungan sa pamamagitan ng peace negotiations para sa release ng maraming political prisoners mga 500 plus, at saka NDF consultants mga 20 [This is really important because it is the response of the Philippines, of the CPP-NPA-NDF to the initiative of President-elect Duterte. So the revolutionary group is willing to forge an alliance, through peace negotiations for the release of more than 500 political prisoners and 20 NDF consultants],” he noted.
Jalandoni said the new talks signal fresh beginnings.
“Mahalaga ito na pakita na may mataas na hangarin na magkaroon ng resolution ng roots ng armed conflict at makaabot ng isang resolusyon kagaya ng land reform, national industrialization, national sovereignty [This is important because it shows that there is the strong desire to reach a resolution to the roots of the armed conflict and to reach some agreements on land reform, national industrialization, national sovereignty],” he pointed out.
In a separate television interview, Sison lauded Duterte and the serious efforts shown by the group of Dureza that paved the way for the success of the initial talks in Oslo.
The CPP leader said the exploratory talks enabled them to identify “easy and difficult points” that the two panels should hurdle during formal negotiations.
Sison added that ailing and elderly political prisoners will be released first while other political prisoners will be freed once the interim ceasefire agreement has been made final.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) congratulated both panels for the “positive and significant steps that lay the groundwork for the resumption of formal peace talks in the third week of July.”
“We look forward to the release of political prisoners, affirmation of previously signed agreements and discussions on other substantial agenda such as socio-economic reforms,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said in a statement on Thursday.
“We hope that incoming President Duterte will approve his panel’s recommendation on the immediate release of NDF consultants as well as release of sick and elderly prisoners based on humanitarian grounds,” he added.
The Bayan leader urged the public to support the resumption of formal peace talks “and the struggle for a just and lasting peace.”