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Rody ready to talk with Joma
President Rodrigo Duterte is ready to talk to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison in a third country to finalize a peace agreement with the group. AP/Peter Dejong, file
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Duterte is ready to talk to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison in a third country to finalize a peace agreement with the group.
The President said the negotiating panels of the government and the CPP-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (NPA-NDF) were set to resume the third round of peace talks in Rome from Jan. 19 to 25 despite hitches.
Last month, Duterte said he would not free 130 political prisoners unless he would receive a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement between the government and the communists witnessed by a third party facilitator from the Norwegian government, claiming he “conceded to the communists too much too soon.”
The government facilitated the release of 22 political prisoners serving as NDF peace panel consultants shortly before the start of the first round of formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway in August of last year.
“I will just wait for a while,” the President said with regard to a possible meeting with Sison, who lives in exile in the Netherlands.
“And after that, if there’s something that is really official and substantial, then we can announce to the world that we have this agreement,” the President said during the induction of officers of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. here Saturday night.
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Chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III said they would submit to the President the draft documents that would be tabled for discussion during the resumption of the peace talks in a courtesy call at Malacañang before leaving this evening.
Bello said the government panel is ready to engage the NDF in the discussion of all substantive agenda, including supplemental agreements needed to proceed and arrive at an agreement to end the armed conflict in the country.
Among the documents to be submitted to the President are draft agreements and principles for social and economic reforms (CASER), comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms and the same on end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
“We are doing this in the spirit of true reconciliation and genuine quest for just and lasting peace,” Bello said.
Bello expressed confidence major breakthroughs would again be achieved in the Rome talks.
“We are prepared to sign side and other agreements while we are discussing contents and provisions of the major substantive agenda,” he added.
Bello, who is also labor secretary, explained the government is set to sign a supplemental agreement on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which would include an expanded role of the Joint Monitoring Committee.
“And we are challenging the NDF to formalize the unilateral ceasefire with a bilateral ceasefire agreement to give our communities and combatants a more secure environment for the peace process,” Bello added.
Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, who is joining the talks, said the Philippine government and the communists mutually agreed to change the venue of the negotiations due to the harsh winter in Oslo.
Pamintuan, also chairman of the Central Luzon Regional Development Council (RDC) and national president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, is an adviser of the Philippine government panel.
“Hopes are high that there will be major agreements on substantial issues…The matters concerning joint/bilateral ceasefire will also be taken up and I am very optimistic that there will be meeting points on this, if not a formal agreement,” Pamintuan said.
The ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA has been holding even if it is only covered by unilateral declarations from both sides but like Bello, Pamintuan said a formal bilateral ceasefire agreement would make the environment for the talks more stable.
“So far, so good. The staccato of gunfire has been replaced by singing of songs and conduct of peace fora throughout the country. The Christmas season even paved the way for joint events punctuated by joint singing of AFP soldiers and NPA guerrillas, and boodle fights,” Pamintuan said.
Peace negotiations with the NDF were resumed in August after more than five years following the election of Duterte.
In the August round where the negotiations were reopened, both panels agreed to reaffirm all previous signed agreements and reconstitute the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and release of NDF leaders and members.
In the second round also in Oslo, negotiators exchanged outlines and agreed to accelerate the peace talks. - Edith Regalado, Ric Sapnu