Peace talks with NDF moved to Aug. 20; 11 rebel leaders to be freed
MANILA — Formal peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines will resume on August 20, to give the Philippine government enough time to work on the release of detained rebel leaders, according to government peace process adviser Jesus Dureza.
Dureza said on Tuesday, talks were moved back a month from the original schedule in July. The talks have been scheduled to take place from August 20 to August 27, in Oslo, Norway, Dureza said.
“This is a milestone because as you know, the peace talks had broken down for about four years. They had never moved. We are now on the verge of a milestone, which is the resumption of the formal negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF,” Dureza said in a press briefing.
He said President Rodrigo Duterte directed the justice department to work for the release of detained Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) members who would be included in the panel participating in the peace talks.
He declined to identify the prisoners or say how many would be freed. But a statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said 11 detained leaders are expected to be freed.
With the impending release of the prisoners, a bigger group would sit on the panel on the side of the CPP, Dureza said.
Dureza said the formal reopening of the talks would be followed by the reaffirmation of signed agreements and discussions on interim ceasefire, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, and the possible release of other political prisoners who were not included in the peace negotiations.
They might also begin discussions on substantive political, social and economic issues, he said.
Dureza said that he and CPP founder Jose Maria Sison would be in the peace talks in Norway even if they were not members of the panel.
Heading the Philippine panel is Silvestre Bello III, while Luis Jalandoni chairs the panel for the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Sison is a “consultant” and plays a key role in the negotiations, according to Dureza.
The other members of the Philippine government side are Hernani Braganza, Rene Sarmiento, Angela Librado-Trinidad, and Noel Felongco.
For the NDF, the other members of the panel are Fidel Agcaoili, wife Coni Ledesma, and Sison’s wife Juliet de Lima.
Braganza on Tuesday said that in the month-long extension, the government wished to look at all the details first to ensure that these would not become problems in the future.
One of those being looked at is the proposed release of detained NDF consultants so that they can freely participate in the peace process.
“Mas maganda sa umpisa magkakasama na kami (It would be better if at the outset we were united),” Braganza told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
He said the military as well as local governments would be consulted “to avoid possible irritants in the future.” In the past, clashes often marred the talks.
Braganza said the three remaining substantive agenda—the social economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces—would be tackled simultaneously. SFM
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