President Rodrigo Duterte is still hopeful the resumption of the peace negotiations between the government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) will put an end to the decades old insurgency problem in the countryside.
“The President instructed the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) and the Department of foreign Affairs to assist the NDF consultants who will be traveling to Oslo, Norway over the weekend for the formal talks slated for Monday next week, August 22,” GPH panel and Labor Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III said.
Several detained high-ranking NDF leaders have been allowed to post bail to be able join the peace negotiations in Oslo under the auspices of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG).
The government, upon orders of the President, did not pose objections to their temporary liberty in order to fast-track the peace negotiations.
Among those allowed by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to join the peace talks were Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, chair and secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), respectively.
The CPP, along with its armed wing the NPA, is waging Asia’s longest running insurgency. The NDF is the political umbrella of the CPP-NPA.
“The President assured NDF lawyers present during the meeting in Malacañang that the NDF consultants will fly to Oslo,” Bello said.
Bello will fly to the Middle East Tuesday and will immediately proceed to Europe for the talks.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza will head the Philippine delegation during the opening ceremonies.
“The President said while he was hurt by the sharp exchanges between him and CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison who is based in The Netherlands, he gave assurances that he will walk the extra mile for peace,” Bello said.
Duterte had vowed to reopen peace negotiations as a campaign promise during the May 2016 elections.
The President is known to have maintained relationship with several high-ranking rebel leaders in Mindanao.
He was instrumental in the release of government soldiers and police officers who were captured by NPA rebels in the island while serving as mayor of Davao City.
But a series of armed encounters and polemics between the government apparently exasperated the President, who threatened to call off the peace negotiations if the NPA continues to launch offensives and ambuscades against government troops.
However, in a meeting in Malacañang Thursday (August 15) afternoon with GPH panel members and NDF consultants, Duterte said he is open to any proposal that would address the root of rebellion in the countryside.
Present in the meeting were Bello, lawyers Rene Sarmiento and Angela Librado-Trinidad, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza, and new GPH panel member Antonio Arellano.
Also present were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) Commissioner Jaime Morante.
The NDF consultants were led by former Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo and former NDF chief negotiator during the failed 1986 GRP-NDF peace talks and NDF lawyer Edre Olalia.
The Oslo talks are expected to tackle substantial issues on socio economic reforms, political and constitution reforms, security and immunity guarantees, cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.