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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Will peace talks happen at all?

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Is the projected peace talks between the Philippine government and the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) expected to begin this year doomed to fail even before it has started?

That’s a very real possibility if we’re to go by statements of the two sides.

When it was officially announced the two sides had signed an interim agreement in Oslo, Norway in November for the resumption of formal peace talks, the government panel emphasized it was not a resumption nor restart of the political negotiations that had been held off and on since 1987, with the last that began in 2016 abruptly terminated in 2017.

The rebel side said later that for the talks to push through, the government should release all the NDF peace consultants to allow them to take part in the discussions and negotiations.

It also urged the government to rescind the terrorist designation of the NDF and allied groups.

Aside from these, the rebels asked the Marcos administration to dismantle the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and repeal the Anti-Terror Law.

Equally disturbing is the recent statement of the rebel side that they consider the peace talks as another “battlefield,” but a political one, to be waged across the negotiating table.

Will the government accede to all these demands for the talks to happen at all? That is not likely at all.

On the other hand, will the government insist the new round of talks should not be considered a resumption of previous negotiations but a “new beginning?”

Meaning the talks should start on a new footing, and disregard previous agreements concluded by the two sides.

The GRP-NDF has signed two agreements.

The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees provided that the government would allow designated peace negotiators and “peace consultants” to be free from arrest or surveillance by government.

The second, called the “Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” bound the two sides to keep the ongoing war in the Philippine countryside within the bounds of the Geneva Convention on the humane treatment of prisoners, among others.

Did the government mean these two agreements, and progress made in discussing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and agreements on such issues as agrarian reform, would be deemed moot and academic and therefore totally invalid at this time?

If the two sides insist on their own pre-conditions for the peace talks to proceed, then we’re afraid we would go back to square one in the pursuit of lasting peace, and the killing would simply go on and on ad infinitum.

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