No need to hold peace talks with Reds in Norway, Palace insists

No need to hold peace talks with Reds in Norway, Palace insists
Published June 18, 2018 1:31pm

Malacañang on Monday insisted that the peace talks with the government and communist rebels should be held in the Philippines and not in other countries such as Norway, which has been facilitating the negotiations for nearly two decades already.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized that the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front should talk among themselves on Philippine soil.

“He [Duterte] does not understand why we should continue talking in Norway. Pare pareho naman tayong Pilipino puwedeng pag-usapan na ‘yan dito sa Pilipinas. Bakit kinakailangang lumayo pa?” Roque said at a news conference in the presidential palace.

Roque added holding the negotiations in Norway would only entail costs which for him, can be better spent for the accommodation and other expenses of the NDF panel while talks are ongoing in the Philippines.

Norway has been the third party facilitator of the talks since 2001.

No more facilitator?

Asked if there will be a third party facilitator in future talks, Roque said: “Wala na po siguro. Nandito naman tayo sa Pilipinas. Pero you know any party who wants to help and who has been involved in the process can help.”

He also said the Philippine government will relay to Norway the decision of Manila on the change of venue.

The Palace official said the talks will be brokered by a “panel and they have the authority to fix the logistics.”

CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison is against holding formal talks in the Philippines, saying this will spell doom for the negotiations aimed at ending the 50-year communist insurgency.

Formal resumption of negotiations between the government and the NDF was supposed to take place on June 28 in Oslo, Norway, but Duterte called it off last week to give way to public consultations.

The postponement infuriated Sison who said the Duterte administration is not serious in pursuing peace talks with communist rebels.

“Any peace agreement, especially now with the CPP-NPA, must be all inclusive and must pass the test of both legal and political scrutiny,” Roque said.

“The delay thus in the talks with the CPP-NPA is indispensable if we are to have an agreement that will pass these tests. It would help if Mr. Joma Sison would allow the government to be the one to brief the nation on any future developments.”

Duterte has invited Sison, who has been living in self-imposed exile in The Netherlands, to return to the Philippines so they can directly negotiate peace and oversee the talks during the 60-day period set by the chief executive himself.

Sison said he is willing to come home provided there would be significant development in the peace negotiations and his lawyers are satisfied with legal and security precautions.

Duterte has repeatedly assured Sison that he will be safe should he return to the Philippines and that he will be free to leave “unhampered and unfettered” even if the negotiations fell through.

The peace talks had been scuttled last November, which the government blamed on continued attacks by the rebels on government troops and civilians. — RSJ, GMA News

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