Renewed hope for peace seen as gov’t, Reds meet in Oslo
ILIGAN CITY—Six years after the prospect of a negotiated political settlement between the government and communist rebels was shut off, peace activists are now seeing renewed hope the stalled process can be restarted soon.
On Nov. 23, a handful of government representatives met with several members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Oslo under the auspices of the Norwegian government.
“Cognizant of the serious socioeconomic and environmental issues, and the foreign security threats facing the country, the parties recognize the need to unite as a nation in order to urgently address these challenges and resolve the reasons for the armed conflict,” read a joint statement issued after the meeting.
“The parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict. Resolving the roots of the armed conflict and ending the armed struggle shall pave the way for the transformation of the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP),” the statement further read.
Special Assistant to the President Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo signed for the government while Luis Jalandoni signed for the NDFP.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez and retired Gen. Emmanuel Bautista also signed as witness for the government while Julieta de Lima and Coni Ledesma signed for the NDFP.
Norwegian special envoy Kristina Lie Revheim also signed as witness while foreign minister Espen Barth Eide graced the event at Oslo City Hall, said Galvez.
Galvez explained that the joint statement “was a product of a series of informal discussions held in the Netherlands and Norway starting in 2022 between emissaries of the government and the NDFP” and facilitated by the Norwegian government.
Charlito Manlupig, president of non-government group Balay Mindanaw and chairman of peace think tank Kusog Mindanaw, said he “welcomes with renewed hope the resumption of the peace process” between government and the communist rebels.
“Finally, the voices of the people longing for just and lasting peace have been heard. We view this development as positive step towards the transformation of this armed conflict by addressing the deep-rooted socio-economic and political grievances,” Manlupig said.
“It is truly a remarkable gift for peace advocates in the Philippines. It is a glorious positive sign marking the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) which is co-chaired by Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma, and Bishop Rex Reyes Jr. of the Episcopal Church.
“We reiterate our call for the two parties to resume the formal peace talks earnestly to address the roots of the armed conflict so that a Final Peace Agreement may come to pass. We hope that various barriers to peace will be resolved through dialogue and principled negotiations,” the PEPP added.
The joint statement by the government and NDFP was firmed up exactly six years after then President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360 terminating the peace negotiations with the NDFP.
The on-and-off talks between the parties began in 1986 but the first breakthrough came in September 1992 with the forging of the Hague Joint Declaration that established the framework of the peace negotiations.
The declaration defined the substantive agenda of the talks as human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
An agreement for the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law was forged in March 1998.
Before Duterte closed the doors on political negotiations in 2017, the NDFP had already come up with its draft for an agreement on socio-economic reforms with some principles already agreed upon by government negotiators such as free distribution of land to landless farmers.