Optimism reigns as PH gov’t, NDFP open talks in Norway
OZAMIZ CITY – Expectations are high that the peace panels of government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) will be able to achieve a breakthrough as they begin four-day talks in Oslo in a bid to end Asia’s longest running communist insurgency.
The meeting convened in Oslo around 3:30 pm Manila time Monday.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), an ecumenical group of Christian leaders, said in a statement that by convening the formal meeting, both parties showed “their commitment to break the barriers to a just and enduring peace.”
“We hope that this will be translated further to a successful round of talks, especially on social and economic reforms. We pray and wish that this meeting produces a result that can be added to other previously signed agreements,” the PEPP said.
The statement was signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese; Reverend Rex Reyes Jr. of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines; Bishop Deogracias S. Iῆiguez Jr. of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum; Bishop Noel A. Pantoja of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches; and Sister Mary John D. Mananzan of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.
The Oslo meeting will be the first formal one between the panels after the negotiations under the so-called regular track broke down due to the issue of the release of the NDF’s consultants who are detained on charges of alleged involvement in common crimes.
Interactions by the parties undertaken through a special track also failed to keep the process moving.
Although the parties agreed in an informal meeting last June to resume formal talks this month, the road to the negotiating table has been fraught with difficulties.
This mainly stemmed from the earlier unreciprocated ceasefire declaration of President Duterte last month that led to sharp exchanges between him and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison.
Sison participates in the negotiations as chief political consultant of the NDF, which is the political arm of the CPP.
The atmosphere turned around when the Duterte government successfully worked to have the detained NDF consultants temporarily released so they could join the Oslo talks.
“Judging by the recent number of releases of detained consultants of the NDFP these past days, prospects have never been brighter for the resumption of formal peace talks between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” PEPP noted.
“This optimistic mood is a testament to the seriousness of both parties to transcend differences exemplified by the ceasefire issue a few weeks ago. Now they can discuss a ceasefire in a principled and sober manner as well as address the roots of the armed conflict,” the group added.
The church leaders cited the role played by functionaries in government, independent lawyers, human rights paralegals and religious groups for making possible the release of the detained NDFP consultants, which helped guarantee the resumption of the talks.
“We hope that the remaining political prisoners be freed eventually to help the healing process in the country,” the PEPP said. SFM
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