MANILA – After two days of informal talks at Utrecht in the Netherlands, the Philippine government and the communist movement have agreed to talk peace again.
A ceasefire between the government and Asia’s longest-running insurgency will also be observed again.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) last month after the communist rebels attacked government forces in a violation of a ceasefire and due to “unreasonable demands” made by the communist organization.
“I am pleased to announce that the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) are now back on track,” said Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza yesterday.
Key members of the government and NDF panels met in the Netherlands last Friday and Saturday. The informal talks were brokered by Norway.
The NDF is the umbrella organization of the CPP-NPA.
The peace talks will resume early next month during which discussions of a broader ceasefire will be held.
Also agreed upon in the backchannel talks is the release of four soldiers and a policeman captured by the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, last month while the government, for its part, will free four communist rebel consultants and 19 political detainees.
One of the communist rebel consultants who will be released is NDF consultant Ariel Arbitrario, who was apprehended by the military in Davao City after the collapse of the peace talks and lifting of the ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Malacañang Presidential Palace, the military and various peace advocacy groups welcomed the resumption of the peace talks.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement, “The Palace welcomes the announcement of Secretary Jesus Dureza in Utrecht on the resumption of formal peace talks between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front. We remain hopeful that the leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF can rein in its forces on the ground in reciprocating the efforts of the Duterte administration to move the peace process forward.”
At Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said, “The AFP has time and again expressed its unequivocal support to all peace initiatives undertaken by our government past and present.”
Ateneo de Davao president Fr. Joel Tabora said they welcomed the resumption of the peace talks while Balay Mindanaw (Mindanao House), a community-based peace organization, said the resumption of the peace talks gives hope for lasting peace in the country.
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