By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter
THE PHILIPPINE government and the coalition of revolutionary groups supporting the communist insurgency have agreed to restart peace talks amid foreign threats and other challenges facing the country, officials announced on Tuesday.
In their joint statement signed in Oslo, Norway on Nov. 23, the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) cited “serious socioeconomic and environment issues” as well as “foreign security threats” for agreeing to “a principled and peaceful resolution” of their armed conflict.
“The parties acknowledge the deep-rooted socioeconomic 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,” they said.In resolving the roots of their armed conflict, both parties see that ending the armed struggle “shall pave the way for the transformation” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA), and the NDFP.
They agreed to craft a framework that will set the parameters for the final peace agreement.
High-ranking delegations from both sides that met in Oslo last week agreed to a “common vision for peace” that sought to address key obstacles, according to a separate statement by Norway’s foreign ministry also on Tuesday.
If negotiations succeed, the rebels will end their armed struggle and transform into a political movement, according to Norway, which has facilitated the Philippines’ peace process for around 20 years.
Removing the communist party and affiliated groups from a government list of designated terror organizations was included in the talks, government Peace Process Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. told a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday.He said the NDFP was represented by Luis G. Jalandoni, a member of its National Executive Council; Julieta de Lima, interim chairperson of the negotiating panel; and Coni K. Ledesma, who is also a panel member.
Signatories on the part of the Philippine government include Mr. Galvez, Special Assistant to the President Antonio F. Lagdameo, and Retired General Emmanuel Bautista, who served as a special representative.
No immediate ceasefire was announced, however, and operations against the rebels would continue, Philippine military chief General Romeo S. Brawner, Jr. said.
But Brawner also said an eventual peace deal would allow the armed forces to focus on external and territorial defence rather than domestic conflict.
“If this conflict will finally end, your Armed Forces of the Philippines will be able to shift our focus to external or territorial defence. Our resources, efforts will be poured into defending our territory,” he said.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has veered away from some of the key policies of his predecessor, standing up to China amid its aggression at sea and vowing to shift the focus of the drug war to rehabilitation.
Since taking office in late June last year, Mr. Marcos has also vowed to put focus on the climate crisis and economic insecurities, including the rising prices of basic commodities.
His predecessor, Rodrigo R. Duterte, had been known for tagging critics and activists alike as communists. He had launched a deadly war on drugs and a bloody campaign against the Maoist insurgency, which domestic and international watchdogs said resulted in rampant human rights violations.
The Duterte administration pushed for peace talks with the Maoist movement in 2016, with Norway hosting the negotiations.
But the talks did not last long, with the government and rebels accusing each other of ceasefire violations. Negotiators representing the communist movement had belied military officials’ claims.
The NPA has been waging one of the world’s longest-running insurgencies. It had significantly expanded across the impoverished country under the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose son clinched a remarkable victory in the 2022 presidential election.
During the presidential race last year, Mr. Marcos capitalized on a promise of unity and called for national healing amid serious economic challenges facing the nation.The bloody conflict between authorities and the CPP-NPA has raged for over 50 years and killed more than 40,000 people. — with Reuters