Government, rebels to resume peace talks

Manila: The Philippine government and the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) have scheduled peace talks in Oslo in October, sources said, but they also issued counter-demands each of them could not easily comply with.

The NDF, a coalition of progressive groups including the 47-year old Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples’ Army (CPP-NPA), should agree to the government’s proposed ceasefire, said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. “The government wants a ceasefire. It’s better that you conduct talks with a ceasefire,” Lacierda explained. The Philippine government and the NDF began holding peace talks in 1992, with a strategy they both approved of, to sign several agreements until they reach a political settlement, after which they would agree on how the leftist rebels give up their arms. Article continues below Meanwhile, the NDF has reiterated its demand that the government release 14 arrested rebels who have been serving as NDF’s peace consultants. In response, government peace negotiator Alex Padilla said the government cannot fully comply with this demand.

At the same time, NDF chairman Luis Jalandoni also complained that police in suburban Quezon City arrested last Saturday Benjamin Mendoza, a member of CPP’s central committee and secretary of CPP’s Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee in southern Luzon. Also arrested were Mendoza’s wife, Josephine, and two other NPA members, said Jalandoni, adding that Mendoza, his wife and staff were covered by a joint agreement (between the Philippine government and the MILF) on safety and immunity guarantee (JASIG) that was signed by both parties in 1995. Jasig gives NDF members, consultants and staff of the negotiating team, immunity from arrest.

“The Aquino regime’s numerous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and its refusal to respect and comply with the Jasig are serious obstacles to the resumption of formal peace talks,” Jalandoni said in a statement he sent from the Netherlands, his base, to reporters in Manila. Government and NDF negotiators who held talks in Norway early this year scheduled the resumption of their formal peace talks in October, also in Norway. Both parties were also involved in backroom talks in June.

The Norwegian government has been brokering the peace talks. In 2004, the NDF refused to return to the negotiating table after the Philippine government allowed the United States and the European Union to include the CPP-NPA in a list of foreign terror groups. Since then, only informal talks have been held by both parties.

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