Informal Oslo talks collapse

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:33:00 12/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Informal peace talks in Norway between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have apparently collapsed.

The NDFP accused government peace negotiators of “sabotaging” the talks by insisting on a ceasefire between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels as a precondition for the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

The government negotiating panel led by former Labor Secretary Nieves Confesor and the NDFP group headed by Luis Jalandoni met in Oslo, Norway, from Nov. 27 to 30 to explore the possibilities of resuming the stalled peace negotiation as a way of ending four decades of insurgency in the country. The informal meeting was hosted by the Norwegian government.

In a statement e-mailed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Tuesday, Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP peace panel spokesperson, said their group had proposed a draft joint statement for the resumption of formal negotiations but the government panel rejected it by insisting on a prolonged ceasefire as a precondition for the talks.

Surrender negotiations

“This precondition is calculated by the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to convert the peace negotiations into negotiations of surrender and pacification under the pretext of ceasefire,” he said.

The NDFP is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose founder—Jose Maria Sison—is in exile in Europe.

Agcaoili added that “the GRP seeks to prevent the serious and sustained negotiations on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms as the basis of a just and lasting peace.”

He said “all illusions must be cast away as the current administration is not at all interested in peace negotiations.”

Agcaoli said that what they have been offering since August 2005 was a ceasefire for the duration of every formal meeting of the negotiating panels as a goodwill and confidence-building measure.

He argued that their ceasefire proposal would be an “incentive to substantive meetings by the negotiating panels.”

Prolonged ceasefire

“But what the GRP wants is a prolonged ceasefire to serve mere pacification of the people’s resistance and to block substantive peace negotiations in violation of The Hague Joint Declaration. This solemn declaration requires that no side shall impose on the other any precondition which negates the character and purpose of peace negotiations,” he said.

Agcaoli said it was “highly unlikely” that there would ever be a formal negotiation under the Arroyo regime, which would continue “to escalate its brutal campaigns of suppression against the people.”

The government panel has not yet issued a response to the NDFP statement.

Peace talks between the government and the communist rebels were stalled in 2004 after the insurgents protested the government’s alleged inaction in having them removed from the terrorist lists of the United States and the European Union.

The negotiating panels earlier held informal talks in Norway from May 13 to 15.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given security forces until 2010 to defeat the NPA, which, according to military estimates, had 5,700 fighters at the end of 2007. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

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