Deles sees no obstacle in resumption of talks with NDF

January 9, 2011 2:51 am 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, Jan. 8 –- Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Q. Deles on Saturday said she sees no obstacles in the resumption of formal peace talks with communist rebels in Norway next month as both parties have agreed earlier in Hong Kong to impose no preconditions to resume the stalled negotiations.

“We stand by that (agreement),” Deles said in a text message to this writer.

Formal peace talks between the government and the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) will be held in Oslo, Norway next month.

“Agreement in Hong Kong was that there will be no preconditions for talks this January and February. We stand by that and look forward to the two panels sitting together after about six years,” Deles said.

The Norwegian Royal Government is the third party facilitator in the peace talks to end the 42-year communist insurgency in the Philippines, one of the longest-running insurgencies in Asia.

Negotiation between the two sides bogged down in August 2005 after the United States and European Union tagged the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), as a terrorist organization.

However, back-channeling talks continued all these years with both sides hoping to resume formal talks at some appropriate time.

When President Benigno C. Aquino III assumed the presidency on June 30 last year, he resumption of talks with rebel groups was one of his top priorities.

Last month, Health Undersecretary Alex Padilla, chairman of the government peace panel negotiating with the NDF in concurrent capacity, met with his NDF counterpart, Luis Jalandoni in Hong Kong for an informal dialogue to find ways to restart formal peace talks.

It was during this meeting at the Crown Colony that both Padilla and Jalandoni announced that formal peace talks will reopen with no preconditions in Oslo, Norway in February this year to be preceded by a second round of informal dialogue.

As part of the confidence-building measure, the government declared a 19-day truce during the Christmas holiday.

On December 16, two days before the ceasefire took effect, NPA rebels killed 10 army soldiers and a 9-year old boy in a landmine ambush in Barangay Sta. Fe, Las Navas town in Northern Samar.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denounced the NPA’s atrocity for using a landmine which is banned by the United Nations (UN), in the ambush of soldiers that also killed an innocent boy who was swimming in a nearby rebel where the ambush took place.

Landmine is banned in warfare because of its indiscriminate destruction to lives and property but which the NPA continued to use. The Samar ambush was the latest incident wherein the NPA used a landmine.

The AFP said that the NPA had used landmines in the ambush of soldiers in various parts of the country in past years.

Padilla said the government peace panel will raise this issue at the resumption of formal peace negotiations in Norway.

Another matter Padilla will raise is the so-called “revolutionary tax” imposed by the NPA on business establishments, particularly the mining industry. Padilla said the NPA should stop the practice of collecting revolutionary tax.

Several mining firms have threatened to pull out their investments because of the excessive NPA “revolutionary tax” as much as P20 million in Caraga Region alone.

Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa City said he will support the government’s plan to raise the issue of revolutionary tax when formal talks between the government and the NDF will resume in Norway next month.

Meanwhile, the CPP in a statement asked for the release of NPA leader Tirso Alcantara who was captured by government forces during a brief firefight in Lucena City shortly after the 19-day holiday ceasefire ended.

Alcantara was wounded when he tried to fight it out with army and police troopers.

The CPP cited the provision of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) for the release of Alcantara.

However, Alcantara failed to present any document that he is a consultant to the NDF peace panel and therefore not covered by the JASIG.

The NDF has listed 96 personalities holding accredited documentary identities and should be immune from arrest as provided for under the JASIG signed by the peace panels of both the government and the NDF.

Of this number the NDF has listed 21 names revealing their true identities while the remaining 75 have only aliases.

Alcantara, alias Ka Bart is not in the list. During the operation government troops also captured Alcantara’s companion, Apolonio Cuarto, alias Ka Polly.

Alcantara who was armed with a .45 caliber pistol, tried to fight it out, forcing troopers from the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police to shoot, wounding the NPA leader in the buttocks, according to Sr. Supt. Erickson Velasquez, Quezon PNP chief.

Recovered from Alcantara were a .45 caliber pistol with two loaded magazines, two grenades, nine blasting caps and a detonating cord measuring five meters.

Velasquez said Alcantara has 23 standing warrants of arrest, including eight counts of murder, double murder, robbery in band, and kidnapping. (PNA)



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