(Yearender) Aquino gov’t breaks 7-year impasse in talks with NDF in 2011

January 1, 2012 2:51 am 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, Dec. 31 -– Little progress was made in the peace process between the government and communist rebels in 2011 with only two informal talks held during the period, but be that as it may, it broke the seven-year impasse of the peace negotiations that could pave the way for the reviving of formal talks in 2012.

“With President Benigno S. Aquino III at the helm, the peace process once again took on the front seat,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said.

After a hiatus of seven years, formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) were conducted in Oslo, Norway on February 15-21, 2011 with the Royal Norwegian Government as third-party facilitator.

Unilateral ceasefire was declared by both sides in December 2010 until February 2011.

The two sides also signed the Oslo Joint Statement in February 2011 which provided for an accelerated time frame of 18 months to complete the talks but the talks hit a snag shortly thereafter.

The year 2011 saw the reconvening of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Socio-economic Reforms, Working Group on Political Constitutional Reforms and Joint Monitoring Committee.

The informal dialogue in Oslo was the second under the Aquino administration. The first was held in Hong Kong on December 1-2, 2010.

Formal negotiations broke down in August 2005 after the United States and the European Union tagged the New People’s Army (NPA) as a terrorist organization.

However, back-channeling contacts between the two parties continued during the period to keep the door open for the resumption of peace negotiations to settle peacefully the decades-old communist insurgency, one of the few remaining insurgency wars in the world. ((( The informal dialogue in Oslo is the second under the Aquino administration. The first was held in Hong Kong last Dec. 1-2. ((( Formal negotiations broke down in August 2005 after the United States and the European Union tagged the NPA as a terrorist organization. (((( However, back-channeling between the two parties continued during the period to keep the door open for the resumption of peace negotiations to settle peacefully the armed conflict.))))

The GPH-NDF talks hit a snag in 2011 after the latter’s insistence for the release of detained NDF “consultants” before talks could restart which Undersecretary Alex Padilla, chair of the government peace panel, said was a blatant violation of the agreement signed in Norway and in The Hague for both sides not to impose any precondition for the resumption of the peace negotiations that have dragged for the past 25 years.

But Padilla made it clear that “the door is always open” for the resumption of the peace talks.

Negotiations between the government and the NDF were supposed to resume but the rebel group again demanded for the release of 17 alleged NDF "consultants before talks could restart."

It may be recalled that the government released five NDF consultants as a gesture of good faith and confidence-building in the peace process, but lamented one of those freed had gone underground anew.

During the year, the Norwegian government, the third party facilitator, had been shuttling back and forth for the peace panels of both the Philippines and the NDF to resume peace negotiations.

Padilla said the government will never scuttle the peace talks in the latest spate of escalated attacks by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on three mining firms in Surigao del Norte recently.

“Unfortunately, while they are talking peace with the government, the NPA has escalated its attacks and other acts of violation, including attacks on remote police outposts, abductions, the use of landmines, not to mention extortion going by the label of ‘revolutionary taxation,’” Deles said.

She said the NPA attacks in Claver, Surigao del Norte had resulted in the destruction of property amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos.

“These acts of violence were preceded by the abduction of mattress makers in Initao, Misamis Oriental, the abduction of four BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) guards and Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Dano, who have all been released,” Deles pointed out.

“We condemn in the strongest words possible these senseless acts of violence,” Deles said as she reiterated her call “to the CPP/NPA/NDF to seriously talk peace with government – and wage peace on the ground.”

At the same time, Deles disclosed the government’s peace agenda and development framework – first the “negotiated political settlement of armed conflicts and, second, “effectively addressing the causes of armed conflict and other issues that affect the peace process.”

According to Deles, this “requires us to finish the critical aspects of all ongoing peace negotiations and to ensure a firm start of implementation of signed final peace agreements, within the six-year term of P.Noy (President Benigno S. Aquino III).”

“We are determined not to pass on unfinished business on the peace front to the next administration,” she added.

Time and time again, the government said it will stick to its promise of not making any precondition for the resumption of the stalled peace talks with communist rebels.

But it will raise the continued use of anti-personnel landmine by communist rebels despite a ban imposed by the United Nations (UN) prohibiting its use because of its indiscriminate dreadful effect to non-combatants.

The UN has banned the use of anti-personnel landmines because of their horrendous and indiscriminate destruction to lives, including civilians who may happen to pass in an area where anti-personnel landmines are planted.

The Human Rights Watch says “The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of antipersonnel mines, and requires states to destroy their stockpiles within four years and to clear all mined areas within 10 years. The treaty also contains provisions to assist landmine survivors and to support mine risk education programs.”

Negotiations between the government and the NDF have been off-and-on the past 25 years but the government’s never-give-up stance may prove to be the key to end one of the world’s longest running insurgencies for good. (PNA)

scs/RBC/rsm

Comments

Comments are closed.