CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY ? Fresh from a solidarity mission for peace in Europe, where they met with leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), religious leaders from all over the country gathered here Thursday and reiterated their call for the government and the NDF to begin formal peace negotiations.
Earlier, the peace mission brought the Church leaders to Utrecht, the Netherlands, where they met CPP leaders Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni. They also proceeded to Oslo and met with Norwegian officials and their counterparts from the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), a movement composed of various churches and denominations, has initially asked both panels of the Philippine government and the NDF to resume informal talks to be hosted by Oslo, the appointed third-party facilitator.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Sharon Rose-Joy Duremdes of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Bishop Ephraim Tendero of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, and Sister Cres Lucero of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, told reporters at the Manresa Retreat House here that the Church is uniting to bring about a just and enduring peace in the country.
Roadblock to peace
They said they were optimistic that the government and NDF panels would sit down soon to discuss the roadblocks to peace.
Norwegian Ambassador Stale Forstein Risa, who attended the gathering, agreed that there was a need to resume the peace process between Manila and the communists.
Risa said the Norwegian government has already invited both panels to a dialogue.
?We raised the question [to the NDF panel] of what they think is the major roadblock in the formal talks, and they said it is the terrorist tag on the CPP,? Tendero said.
He said the NDF was open to informal talks but that they considered the terrorist tag as an impediment in the peace negotiations.
Lucero said another roadblock is the government?s questioning of the sincerity of the NDF in the peace negotiations.
?The GRP is questioning the NDF?s sincerity of really moving forward, while the NDF is questioning GRP for having too many principals and other issues,? she said.
Iñiguez said they have also discussed with both panels the reactivation of the Joint Monitoring Committee.
?There is no talk of ceasefire yet because it should be a principled ceasefire. What they are seeking is the addressing of the roots of the conflict,? he said.
PEPP was formed in December 2007 and has been conducting workshops on the peace process.