Dureza starts talks with NDF in Oslo
(The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2016 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Representatives of the incoming Duterte administration have started preliminary talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Oslo, Norway in preparation for the planned resumption of peace negotiations next month.

Incoming presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza, who announced the start of preliminary talks on his Facebook account yesterday, said the ambiance of the meeting was “good.”

He told ABS-CBN News that negotiations have been stalled for four years. 

“Whatever we agree on, we can’t sign yet because we have not assumed office. Once we assume office and upon the instruction of president-elect (Rodrigo) Duterte, it would be easier to do the next step to bring about peace in the country,” he said.

The NDF represents the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA) in the peace negotiations with the government.

Apart from Dureza, incoming labor secretary Silvestre Bello III and former Pangasinan congressman Hernani Braganza are to represent the Duterte administration.

Those who attended the meeting on behalf of NDF were CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni, Juliet de Lima-Sison, Connie Ledesma and Fidel Agcaoili.

Online photos posted by Dureza showed representatives from both sides smiling as they discussed resuming the negotiations, which were stalled in 2013.

Talks between the government and the communists were stalled after negotiators failed to reach a deal on jailed rebel leaders.

The thorny issue that led to the collapse of the talks was the arrest of communist rebels whom the NDF claimed were peace consultants.

NDF negotiators pointed out that the government has the obligation to free their jailed comrades as a signatory to the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The 1995 deal prohibits the arrest and detention of peace consultants.

The government panel, however, rejected the NDF’s demand, saying the identity of those who are supposed to be covered by the JASIG, especially those using aliases, cannot be validated.

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