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Duterte eyes meeting with Red negotiators

President Rodrigo Duterte is looking into the possibility of meeting with two peace negotiators of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who have reportedly expressed their willingness to meet with him after the talks collapsed last year.

Military consulted

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Speaking in Puerto Princesa City on Saturday night, the President revealed that he had consulted the military about the proposed meeting being requested by NDFP negotiators Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni.

“I called for a cluster meeting including the military. ‘So what do you think?’ They said, ‘Maybe. Perhaps maybe.’ It’s not a very big margin there, but maybe,” he said.

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Agcaoili, chair of the NDFP negotiating panel, said he would be accompanied by Coni Ledesma and Jalandoni next month for a series of meetings.

Ledesma, Jalandoni’s spouse, is a member of the NDFP peace panel and also the head of the NDFP Special Office for the Protection of Children.

“Ms Coni Ledesma and I have scheduled a trip to the Philippines this month in connection with our work as members of the NDFP component in the joint monitoring committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl),” Agcaoili said.

As an agreement signed by both the government and the NDFP, Carhrihl and its mechanisms, including the JMC, still stand even if the talks are stalled.

Agcaoili said they would also meet with Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Bjørn Jahnsen.

The Royal Norwegian government is the third party facilitator of the peace process.

“In this regard, we welcome the opportunity to meet with the President unless he does not want to or his military is against it,” Agcaoili said.

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Offer from NDFP

The offer from the NDFP came days after Vicente Ladlad, an NDFP peace consultant, and two others were arrested in Metro Manila.

Ladlad was present in preparatory meetings with the President in Davao City before the talks resumed in 2016.

Malacañang earlier warned that given the collapse of the peace talks, authorities would now arrest NDFP consultants who used to be covered by a safety conduct pass.

In an online interview, Agcaoili said the planned meeting with the President had been coursed through a third party facilitator, which he did not identify.

The three NDFP leaders are all based in Utrecht, Netherlands, along with Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison.

Sison, however, has expressed his ambivalent reservation on the trip home of his comrades.

“It is difficult for the three to make the trip to the Philippines without positive or clear assurance from Duterte in advance that the military and police are told not to bother them,” Sison said in an online interview.

He added that the possible resumption of the peace talks was also part of the agenda of the three returning NDFP leaders.

The peace talks between the government and the NDFP ended after the President signed Proclamation No. 360 in November 2017.

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TAGS: communist rebels, Fidel Agcaoili, Luis Jalandoni, NDFP, Philippine peace talks, Rodrigo Duterte
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