The prospects of peace talks with the communists scheduled for late this month appears to have dimmed after the government rejected a recent rebel demand for additional prisoner release, the chief negotiator said to bworldonline.com on October 15 2011.
In a telephone interview, Alexander A. Padilla, chairman of the negotiating panel, told BusinessWorld that talks scheduled in Oslo, Norway may be canceled over demands of rebels for the government to release from custody 13 consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The NDFP is the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“Mukhang hindi na matutuloy [It appears that the talks will no longer push through],” he said when sought for comment on a rebel statement on the issue posted on its Web site at the weekend.
In a statement posted at www.ndfp.net, CPP-NDFP negotiating panel spokesperson Fidel V. Agcaoili said the rebels are “eager to resume formal talks” but not before the government complies “with its obligations” under the Oslo Joint Statements of January and February 2011.
The statements noted the release of most, if not all, of the 17 individuals granted safe conduct passes under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) on Oct. 10.
“By failing to perform its obligation, the GPH (government of the Philippines) has made impossible the resumption of formal talks on 31 October in Oslo,” Agcaoili said.
“[The government] has practically sabotaged the agreement to hold a new round of formal talks from 31 October to 12 November 2011,” he added, noting that the prisoner release will set the stage to “prepare the next round of formal talks.”
Mr. Padilla maintained that it is “not the government’s obligation” to release additional rebel leaders, noting that the communist leadership failed to comply with “certain verification processes” in its list of personalities covered by the JASIG.
“I am telling [Agcaoili] that if the case is we need to release the consultants for the talks to resume, then it may not happen. We are not succumbing to this extortion,” he added.
Peace talks were last held in February in Oslo after a six-year hiatus. The rebels withdrew from the talks in 2005 after they were tagged as terrorist by the US government and the European Union.
Norway, which is acting as third-party broker, send its negotiator last month to break the impasse between the government and rebels.
The government peace panel has stood pat on its decision that the negotiations should focus only on social and economic reforms and should not be muddled with the issue of prisoner discharge.
The Maoists have been waging a protracted war against the government for the past four decades.