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GPH peace panel member Hernani Braganza, GPH peace panel chair Silvestre Bello, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, Norway’s Special Ambassador to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum, Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, NDFP peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, and NDFP consultant Wilma Tiamzon (partly hidden). (Photo from Rody Duterte: The Real Change)

AUGUST 23, 2016 — Peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) finally resumed in Oslo, Norway yesterday (August 22).

The opening ceremony was held at the Nobel Hall of the Holmenkollen Park Hotel, with Special Ambassador to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum and Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende welcoming the members of the two panels.

“We are all here, in a foreign land, to reignite the lost sparks that were there before as both parties search for political settlement and peace,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said.

“The last talks were five years ago and in all these peace efforts spanning under six presidencies, we had breakdown of talks due to preconditions… Why are we here today, doing the same thing and hoping to get the same result? If we look at where we are today, there is a new element: the Duterte presidency. There is also a fresh euphoria among our people about the prospects of peace negotiations,” he said.

For his part, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the NDFP is “optimistic that objective conditions and subjective factors in the Philippines are more favorable than ever before for carrying forward the peace negotiations and reaching the ultimate goal of a just and lasting peace through basic social, economic and political reforms.”

“For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a president has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarchy and the folly of servility to foreign powers and by using street language and methods of the mass movement. He is proud to describe himself as the first Left president and as a socialist, willing to seek common ground and cooperation with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” Sison said.

For his part, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, concurrent chair of the government peace panel, said Duterte has made the mission of the government panel very clear: help bring peace to the Filipino people.

“There is no giving up on peace work and peace-making knows no limits. We can never have a peace agreement if we do not talk. It will take more than one party to make a peace agreement,” he said.

The resumption of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations in Oslo has been described as historic as it also served as a venue for the reunion of Filipino Marxist leaders who assumed top positions in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

For the first time in 30 years, Sison huddled under roof with three other guerrilla leaders who, according to the military, once served as party chairs: Benito Tiamzon, Allan Jasmines, and Rafael Baylosis.

Tiamzon and his wife Wilma, who allegedly served as CPP Secretary General, were freed on bail only last week and allowed to travel to Oslo to participate in the peace negotiations. Jasminez and Baylosis were also ordered release on bail for the peace talks.

The meeting in Oslo from August 22 to 26 will be the first formal peace talks under the Duterte administration. This comes on the heels of informal talks earlier held in Norway, where the rebels agreed to resume negotiations with the government.

The agenda of the first meeting in Oslo will cover five major points:

  1. Affirmation of previously signed agreements;
  2. Accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks: socio-economic reforms; political and economic reforms; and end of hostilities and disposition of forces;
  3. Reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list;
  4. Amnesty Proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress; and
  5. Mode of interim ceasefire.

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