Quoting National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Rey Casambre, ABS-CBN News reported yesterday that Sison will come home despite the cancellation of the scheduled peace talks on June 28.
Joma Sison returning in August for peace talks
Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison has agreed to return to the country for the peace talks in August.

Quoting National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Rey Casambre, ABS-CBN News reported yesterday that Sison will come home despite the cancellation of the scheduled peace talks on June 28.

Sison can still technically return to the country in the second week of August, Casambre said.

However, Casambre was quick to add that holding the peace talks in the country could be perilous as NDF peace negotiators and consultants could be arrested.

The date of return of Sison to the country, according to ABS-CBN reports, was proposed by the government peace panel during the back channel talks in Utretch, the Netherlands.

Casambre said the scheduled return of Sison in the second week of August “would have been unprecedented,” but might be “too early.”

Sison earlier expresed optimism that he might be able to return to the country within the year depending on the development in peace negotiations. 

He said the content of the document signed by the government and the NDF includes necessary political, legal, security and technical requirements.?ABS-CBN earlier reported that the government and NDF were supposed to sign a draft interim peace agreement during the formal talks on June 28-30 that will create a bilateral committee to faciliate Sison’s return.

President Duterte earlier cancelled the scheduled peace talks on June 28, citing the need for public consultation to study the components of the interim peace agreement.

Norway still 3rd party facilitator

Norway can remain as third party facilitator of the talks between the government and the communists even if the government wants the negotiations to be held in the Philippines, Malacañang said yesterday. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said all parties who have been involved in the talks in the past may continue to do so if they wish. 

“I would like to clarify that Norway can still have a role in the ongoing peace talks with the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army),” Roque said in a press briefing in Cotabato City. 

“I would like to emphasize the desire of our President to pursue the talks; but a third party facilitator does not have to be abroad to facilitate the peace talks,” he added. 

On Monday, Roque replied in the negative when asked if a third party facilitator is still needed for the talks. 

“Perhaps there is no need for it. We are here in the Philippines,” Roque replied. “But you know, any party who wants to help and who’s been involved in the process can help. The point of the President is he does not understand why we have to talk in another country.”

Hours after the press briefing, Roque released a statement saying he was referring to the venue of the talks when he made the remark. 

“We hope this sets the record straight that what I said is any peace negotiation that would be entered into by the Philippine government and communist rebels should be held inside the country,” Roque’s statement read. 

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said Norway could still take part in the peace talks as “facilitator.”

In his Facebook post, Dureza said he is now in Oslo, Norway to attend an International Forum on Conflict Mediation and “to express our country’s gratitude for Norway’s significant and continuing support for the long drawn peace negotiations with the Left.”

“I am also here to explain to them the reason why the planned resumption of the peace talks discussed during back channel meetings was reset,” Dureza said.

He also described as a “total fabrication” and “irresponsible journalism” reports stating Norway is no longer a facilitator in the peace negotiations. 

Some members of the media sent copies of the transcript of the press briefing to Dureza’s office. 

Dureza said Norway has remained “patient, resilient and steadfast” in helping the Filipino people despite the challenges that came with the long negotiations with the communists. 

Some lawmakers urged the government to consider the well-meaning offers by other countries like Norway to give assistance to peace negotiations with the rebels.

Senators also supported Duterte’s preference to hold peace talks with communist rebels in the country.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the armed insurgency waged by the CPP-NPA was an internal problem.

“I support the position of the President that the peace talks should be held in our country – we’re all Filipinos and this is a problem of our country,” Drilon told reporters.

Drilon said the administration should consider the offer of other countries to act as facilitator in the peace talks.

Lacson also expressed support for the holding of the negotiations in country, but without the involvement of any third-party facilitator.

“For the longest time, I can’t understand for the life of me why we should need a third country facilitator, even a third country venue for an all-Filipino conflict, whether political, ideological or otherwise, to be negotiated and resolved through peace talks,” Lacson said.

He said the government should simply issue safe conduct passes to members of the CPP-NPA-NDF officials involved in the talks to ensure their safety and security. 

“There is a lot of sense in (Duterte’s) suggestion to hold the peace talks here and by ourselves. I therefore fully support such decision,” he said.  – With Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Artemio Dumlao, Jaime Laude

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