GRP/NDF peace talks get new lease on life

Govt, NDF to push peace talks in Norway

By Angelo Samonte, Reporter

The peace panel of the Philippine Government would push for a more effective ceasefire agreement at the start of informal discussions with the National Democratic Front (NDF) next week, Presidential adviser on the peace process Hermogenes Esperon said Monday.

The NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Esperon said the government peace panel has considered the proposal of Norwegian Ambassador to Manila, Risa Torstein, together with the Norwegian facilitator of the negotiations, for the resumption of the informal discussions in Oslo, Norway on November 27.

Esperon said the government wants the New People’s Army’s (NPA) halt its attacks on cell sites, mines and construction sites, as well as its extortion activities, liquidations, kidnappings, landmine attacks and recruitment of minors as combatants. The New People’s Army is the military arm of the National Democratic Front.

“We hope they [NDF] change their position, redefining what ceasefire means,” he said adding the attacks by communist rebels are “very, very grave” and claim at least three lives a week.

Nonetheless, Esperon said they are considering that the government panel, headed by Nieves

Confessor, would proceed to Oslo for the talks. He said, however, the government is still fixing its agenda for the talks.

He said the informal talks would be the way to go for both sides, noting it’s more like an academic discussion, without making formal agreements and commitments.

The Philippine government would also raise the concept of DDR or disarmament, demobilization and reintegration with the communist rebels, which is in line with the government’s shift in policy in initiating new talks with Muslim separatists.

Besides the DDR, Esperon said they would seek for a more effective implementation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or Jasig, as many rebel leaders use aliases when listing under the agreement.

Esperon said it is highly likely that the Democratic Front would demand for the NPA’s delisting from the terror list. However, he said Philippine government couldn’t do more to remove the NPA from the terror list of the United States and the European Union.

The formal negotiations between the two panels were halted on August 2004 after the US and the European Union included the communist rebels in their terror lists.

The government and the communist panel also had an informal discussions in May but didn’t produce good results.

SOURCE: The Manila Times Internet Edition, 20081119met1.html

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