UTRECHT (July 9) — Following a statement from Malacañang that immunity for the rebel panel would be restored starting next week, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has announced the resumption of peace talks with the government in August.
“Preparations are being made by the Negotiating Panels of the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) for the resumption of formal talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway sometime in August 2009,” NDF negotiating panel chairman Luis Jalandoni said in a statement.
He said “the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels have agreed on the implementation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) for the purpose of enabling persons covered by JASIG to participate in the preparatory meeting and formal talks of the aforesaid parties in August. Legal teams of the two panels are currently working and cooperating to ensure the implementation of the JASIG.”
Jalandoni also added that “the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels have also agreed to exchange within July their respective drafts of the Joint Statement that shall be unified in a common draft by the aforesaid preparatory meeting and that shall be further discussed in the formal talks for approval and signing by the panels. The Joint Statement shall embody the agenda and points of agreement of the panels in the formal talks.”
He said both sides reached agreement after the Royal Government of Norway, acting as the Third Party Facilitator, helped the representatives of the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels to meet in The Hague on June 15 of this year.
In a media briefing at Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the lifting of the suspension of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) will take effect on July 17. Jasig provides immunity from arrest to members, consultants and staff of the NDF who are part of the negotiating panel.
The NDF pulled out of the negotiations in 2004 when the United States and European Union included the CPP-NPA in their list of international terrorist organizations.
Efforts to restart the negotiations repeatedly failed as the NDF refused to budge on its demand that the Philippine government get the US and EU remove the group from the blacklist.
On Wednesday, however, Ermita said the NDF “is no longer insisting on taking its organization off the terror list and the government is no longer insisting on ceasefire declaration as a pre-condition for the resumptions of the peace talks.”
Senator Rodolfo Biazon, former AFP chief of staff and current chairman of the Senate defense committee, welcomed the resumption of peace talks.
“Peace is paramount over anything else. The alternative to peace, which is war, is destructive and we may not be able to afford it,” he said.