THE “common ground” that the government and the Philippine Left stand on regarding the country’s territorial rights over disputed islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is a promising sign that peace talks between the two camps may soon resume, according to a Malacañang official.
In a text message, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Sunday said the negotiating table remains open for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) to share if only to end the country’s decades-old communist insurgency, arguably the world’s longest.
“Government has always expressed its openness and the OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] maintains an active peace table that is prepared to receive a similar message of openness on the part of the CPP-NPA-NDF,” Coloma’s text message read.
The Palace official was reacting to a meeting held between House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison in The Netherlands, where a top-level, multi-branch government mission is defending the country’s position on the contested territories against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
Belmonte met with Sison in Amsterdam last Thursday.
They were joined by NDF peace panel chairman Luis Jalandoni.
According to Coloma, the OPAPP under Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles will now come in and take off from the Belmonte-Sison meeting and work out possible resumption of stalled peace negotiations.
“It will depend on the [action]of OPAPP… They have an active desk in charge of the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF,” he said over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
Coloma added there were disagreements on how to go about the rules that will govern the talks, the reason why both panels have to reach a certain agreement first and, he said, that is the job of Deles’ office.
“We hope that from the initial talks between Speaker Belmonte and [Sison] in The Netherlands, we can see progress toward the reopening of dialogues between the two camps,” he said.
In an earlier interview, Coloma welcomed expressed support by Sison and local militant groups for the government’s position in the maritime dispute with China.
“Patriotic groups who are usually on the opposing side in many issues are [now]with us on the same side because what is at stake here is our sovereignty and pride as a nation,” he told a radio interview.
When sought for comment, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said there is “some kind of agreement” by the Left with the government’s position.
He, however, pointed to a “huge difference” between the two sides regarding “US intervention and [Philippine] dependence on US exercises and bases to supposedly modernize our [military].”