Gov’t, Reds see peace talks revival in June
LUCENA CITY — The government panel and its communist counterpart are set to sign the interim peace agreement (IPA) next month to pave the way for the resumption of formal peace talks, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison has revealed.
Sison said back-channel consultations between the peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resulted in the recent approval of the IPA.
The NDFP is the umbrella group of all communist-led underground organizations that has been conducting on-and-off peace talks with the government since 1986.
In an online interview on Saturday, Sison said the signing of the IPA was supposedly scheduled on June 28 in Oslo, Norway, with President Rodrigo Duterte sending Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea as his representative.
Disagreements over the final venue — the President has insisted that the signing of the IPA be held in the Philippines — and the President’s demand for Sison to return to the Philippines, however, must be resolved first.
Sison, the self-exiled NDFP’s chief consultant, said he would return to the country only if there were significant developments in the negotiations.
“I have consistently declared that I will return home when substantial progress is already achieved in the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP peace negotiations, and my comrades and lawyers are satisfied with the legal and security guarantees,” he said in a statement issued from his base in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The communist “supremo” said they listed the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, as a possible venue as it is closer to the Philippines.
“Nothing is sure until there is a joint announcement [from the two panels]. Wait for the joint announcement in the second week of June,” Sison said.
He said the signing of the IPA would contribute to the success of the peace talks and add to mutual confidence-building measures.
“The IPA would be a big help. Duterte and the military would be pleased that there would be a ceasefire and the NDFP would be happy with the amnesty proclamation to free all political prisoners,” Sison said.
The IPA is meant to pave the way for a formal ceasefire between the military and New People’s Army, the CPP’s armed wing.
Both parties have approved the agrarian reform and rural development, and national industrialization and economic development sections of the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms (Caser).
Considered as the heart and soul of the peace process, the Caser calls for, among other solutions to the country’s social problems, free land distribution and rural industrialization.
Sison, in a Facebook post on Saturday, said the NDFP had planned a personal meeting between him and the President during the signing of the agreement.
“There are certain important considerations against my prematurely returning to the Philippines,” he said, adding that the peace talks would be placed in a precarious situation if it would be held in the country.
“First, I would be going against the established mutual agreement to hold the peace negotiations in a foreign neutral venue. Second, I would be placing myself and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of Duterte and at his mercy. Third, any peace spoiler or saboteur would be able to destroy the entire process by simply abducting or harming any NDFP panelist or consultant,” he said.
Sison said the original plan mutually agreed upon by both parties during the back-channel consultations was to have the President attend the Oslo ceremony for the signing of the IPA.
But Malacañang rejected the idea and instead offered Medialdea as the President’s representative, according to Sison.
He said the NDFP then offered Hanoi as the alternative venue but the government did not give a positive answer.
“Hanoi as a venue near the Philippines was proposed by NDFP in consideration of the heavy work schedule of Duterte,” Sison said.
The Norwegian government’s special envoy, he said, cannot make any arrangement with Hanoi. Norway has long served as a third-party facilitator for the peace talks. —WITH A REPORT FROM GABRIEL PABICO LALU
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