The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has agreed to go back to the negotiating table with the Philippine government, with the resumption of the peace talks expected to begin early next year.
But the issue on the declaration of the ceasefire between government forces led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), is still to be discussed in the next sessions.
The NDFP said the Joint Communique it signed with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GREP) on Nov. 23 this year was a good start to remove impediments on the peace talks and eventually lead to consensus-building.
Luis Jalandoni, member of the NDFP National Executive Council, said the signing of the Joint Communique was a product of almost two years of informal discussions, workshops and dialogues with the emissary sent by the Philippine government.
During that time, he said NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison was still alive and “welcomed and highly-appreciated” the good gesture from the Philippine government.
“The joint is significant as it reaffirms the imperative and value of peace negotiations for a principled and honorable political settlement of the armed conflict with the aim of achieving relevant socio-economic and political reforms towards a just and lasting peace for our people,” Jalandoni said in a press briefing.
“Hence after a long hiatus, the parties will again formally go back to the negotiating table even as we build on past achievements as well as learned from lessons alike. The NDFP, for its part, is always open and willing to talk to the GRP if this will be for the interest and would benefit the Filipino people,” he added.
The peace talks between the NDFP and the Philippine government was terminated in November 2017.
The Oslo Joint Communique
The Joint Communique was signed between the GRP represented by Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Ernesto F. Lagdameo Jr.; Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr.; and Gen Emmanuel T. Bautista (Ret.) and by the NDFP represented by National Executive Council Member Luis G. Jalandoni; Negotiating Panel Interim Chairperson Julieta de Lima; and Panel Member Coni K. Ledesma. The signing was witnessed by the RNG Special Envoy Kristina Lie Revheim.
It was signed after a series of informal discussions held in the Netherlands and Norway starting in 2022 between the emissaries of the GRP and NDFP with the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG).
The Oslo Joint Communique read:
“Cognizant of the serious socioeconomic and environmental issues, and the foreign security threats facing the country, the parties recognize the need to unite as a nation in order to urgently address these challenges and resolve the reasons for the armed conflict.
The parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict. Resolving the roots of the armed conflict and ending the armed struggle shall pave the way for the transformation of the CPP-NPA-NDFP.
The parties acknowledge the deep-rooted socio-economic and political grievances and agree to come up with a framework that sets the priorities for the peace negotiation with the aim of achieving the relevant socioeconomic and political reforms towards a just and lasting peace. Such a framework, that will set the parameters for the final peace agreement, shall be agreed upon by both parties.
Consequently, we envision and look forward to a country where a united people can live in peace and prosperity.”
What happens next?
Julieta de Lima, interim chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Table, said they will work in the coming days as to who would constitute the members of the negotiating panel on the part of the NDFP.
But she said part of the discussions with the GRP in the coming sessions is the release of some of its consultants who are currently in detention and whom they believe to be essential in giving inputs for the success of the peace talks.
The release of the NDFP consultants is just one of the main points of discussions that would be raised by the NDFP in the coming sessions, according to de Lima.
“We know that the quest for genuine peace has no shortcut. The road to freedom, democracy and social justice is long, winding and difficult. There are still many serious concerns and issues that need to be discussed, addressed and worked on by the parties that would help advance the prace negotiations” said de Lima.
These are the concerns and issues that are expected to be raised by the NDFP in the next sessions with the GRP:
1. The participation of detained NDFP consultants in the peace negotiations;
2. Assurance of safety and immunity for those involved in the peace negotiation;
3. General, unconditional and omnibus release of all the political prisoners;
4. The abrogation of the designation of the NDFP, its panel members, consultants and others who are working for peace.
For the first concern, which is the participation of detained NDFP consultants, de Lima stressed the importance of their participation in the peace agreement.
“The role of the NDFP consultants in forging agreements cannot be overemphasized. Hence, we will continue to work for their release to enable them to contribute their knowledge and expertise to the peace negotiations,” said de Lima.
On the other hand, de Lima said the safety and immunity guarantee of those participating in the peace negotiations on the part of the GRP will help facilitate the negotiation and create a favorable atmosphere and prevent any incident that may jeopardize the peace talks.
On the issue of release of political prisoners, It was mentioned during the press conference by the NDFP that there are around 800 political prisoners.
Asked if the NDFP will push for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the NDFP said the discussion on the matter will be among the points of discussion later.
“We will continue to seek effective measures on these serious issues and concerns, and create conducive conditions necessary to achieve a just and lasting peace,” said de Lima.
The NDFP has expressed optimism that the armed conflict involving the NPA would be resolved under the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. whom it said has acceded to the resumption of peace talks.
In his closing statement during the press conference, Jalandoni has committed to be continuously open to work with the Philippine government to ensure the success of the peace negotiations.
“We are open to having the work of both sides to continue and bear fruits, so we hope that the needs of the Filipino people will be the uppermost of our deliberations. We also thank the ones who took the initiative, the Norwegian government, for giving their support and we hope that the future will be bright and helpful for the Filipino people,” said Jalandoni.
“We are optimistic that this negotiation will proceed and that it will result in significant agreements that will ease the problems of the Filipino people,” said de Lima, for her part. — Aaron Recuenco
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