Communist rebels, GPH to discuss resumption of peace talks
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2014 - 5:27pm

MANILA, Philippines - Representatives from the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are set to meet “in the next few days” to discuss ways to resume the peace talks, the chief of the communist negotiating panel said Monday.

NDFP peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni said the meeting was a product of consultations between the two negotiating teams.

“A series of consultations between the NDFP negotiating panel and a high level delegation of the GPH (government of the Philippines) has resulted in a meeting between the two sides scheduled in Utrecht within the next few days,” Jalandoni said in statement issued to the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance.

“The two sides are discussing the possible resumption of peace negotiations after the collapse of talks on truce and cooperation last February 2013,” he added.

Jalandoni did not say when the meeting would start and what topics would be covered by the discussions.

Jalandoni also revealed that a new special envoy has been appointed by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), the official third party facilitator of the talks. He said Elisabeth Slattum, the new envoy, has experience in peace negotiations in Colombia, Nepal and Haiti

“She and Mr. Espen Lindbaeck, the Deputy Director of the Peace and Reconciliation Section of the RNG Foreign Ministry came for talks with the NDFP Negotiating Panel in Utrecht on October 18,” Jalandoni said.

“This new team of the RNG expressed its willingness to help in the resumption of formal talks and to hold the next meeting of the negotiating panels in Oslo, Norway,” he added.

Jalandoni maintained that the NDFP is ready to resume formal talks “on the basis of past bilateral peace agreements in order to address the roots of the armed conflict.”

Talks between the government and the NDFP were stalled last year after the rebels demanded the release of communist leaders facing criminal cases.

The NDFP claimed that the jailed communist leaders were working as peace consultants and should be immune from arrest. The arrest of the peace consultants, the NDFP claimed, is a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees. 

Government negotiators, however, said they cannot validate the NDFP’s claim since some of the jailed rebels are using aliases.

The communists responded by blaming the government for the impasse and accusing the Aquino administration of refusing to honor previous agreements.

Jalandoni claimed that NDFP has been implementing “goodwill gestures” to promote the peace talks like releasing the four captured policemen in Mindanao last July.

He said government forces had committed “gross violations” of human rights and International Humanitarian Law despite the goodwill measures.

Military officials have repeatedly denied committing human rights abuses and dismissed the rebel’s allegations as propaganda.

CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE PEACE AND RECONCILIATION SECTION ELISABETH SLATTUM FOREIGN MINISTRY GOVERNMENT INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW JALANDONI NDFP PEACE TALKS
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