MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said it is actively seeking ways to “restart talks” with communist guerrillas, following the meeting between Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.
Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles, however, said there should be no conditions before talks resume.
“It is premature to talk about prisoner releases without a full appreciation of the context and parameters of the talks that are now being proposed. It is difficult to start with preconditions; what is more important to consider is where the talks will go,” Deles said in a text message.
Deles is set to meet with Belmonte after his return to Manila.
Belmonte, Sison, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni met in Utrecht, Amsterdam on Thursday, July 12. (Belmonte was part of the Philippine delegation to the oral hearings on the Philippines' case against China at The Hague.)
This is not the first time that Sison met with government officials and peace emissaries during the Aquino administration.
Sison, also NDFP chief political consultant, confirmed to Rappler in April that they have been talking to officials and emissaries since 2014, led by former Agrarian Secretary Hernani Braganza.
In December 2014, Braganza met with rebel leaders in an NPA camp in Surigao del Sur. But the initial talks did not lead to anything concrete.
Government officials admitted there is not enough time to complete a peace agreement with the Philippine Left. There is, however, keen interest to reduce the encounters between government troops and the CPP’s armed group, New People’s Army (NPA), especially in the coming elections. (READ: NDF proposes 6-month, time-bound peace talks)
Malacañang, for its part, welcomed the development.
"Sana po mula doon sa inisyal na pakikipag-usap ni Speaker Belmonte sa mga lider ng CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) sa The Netherlands ay magkaroon po ng progreso hinggil sa muling pagbubukas ng diyalogo o usapan sa pagitan ng dalawang panig," Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said in a radio interview on DZRB Sunday, July 12.
Peace talks between the Philippine government and the communist leadership have been delayed due to several issues, such as the communist party's demand to release its detained consultants. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org