MANILA, Philippines—After saying last year that forging a peace deal with the communist rebels appeared to be difficult, on Saturday President Benigno Aquino “spoke about his resolve” to resume the talks, according to spokeswoman Abigail Valte.
The President disclosed his intention to the Norwegian team of facilitators who paid a courtesy call at Malacañang on Friday. The team is brokering the administration’s peace negotiations with the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“The facilitators expressed that they felt now was a good time to move the peace process forward,” said Valte in a radio interview.
“We all know that the peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF have been delayed,” she said, adding that both the President and the Norwegian facilitators have seen the wisdom of resuming the talks.
CPP/NPA/NDF refers to the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front, the main organizations behind the communist-led decades-led insurgency.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is conducting an “internal review process” in connection with the NDF’s demand to free many of its detained consultants before talks could resume.
“But of course, this review process will be in accordance with our laws and with our court processes,” said Valte.
After the signing of the framework agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last October 15, Malacañang said it hoped the event would inspire the communist rebels to return to the negotiating table.
The NDF’s demand that captured rebels be released has been stalling the negotiations since February last year.
Signed by the government and the NDF peace panels in 1995, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) between the government and the NDF guarantees NDF members, consultants and staff who work with the negotiating team immunity from arrest.
Under the agreement, however, holders of a safe-conduct pass should not engage in criminal activities, such as terrorism and extortion or hostile acts against the government for the duration of the pass’ effectivity.
Malacañang had said that the talks hit a snag because of disagreements over the verification of the status of 14 rebels the NDF wanted released.
The floppy disk containing the names of the 14 has been stored in a vault in the Netherlands. A Dutch bishop opened the vault in the presence of government and NDF representatives, and all of them found the file had been corrupted.
Malacañang said the CPP-NP-NDF wanted to provide a new list, but the government refused because it had no assurance that the new list would carry the names of the same people on the original list.