MANILA – The Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), have agreed to a “principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict.”
This developed after the Philippine government and the NDF signed a joint statement in Oslo, Norway on Nov. 23, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a press briefing at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Tuesday.
“Cognizant of the serious socioeconomic and environmental issues, and the foreign security threats facing the country, the parties recognize the need to unite as a nation in order to urgently address these challenges and resolve the reasons for the armed conflict,” Galvez said, reading the joint communique.
“The parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict. Resolving the roots of the armed conflict and ending the armed struggle shall pave the way for the transformation of the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army)-NDFP,” he added.
Acknowledging the “deep-rooted” socio-economic and political grievances, both parties agreed to come up with a framework that sets the priorities for the peace negotiation, Galvez said.
Galvez said the move aims to attain “relevant socioeconomic and political reforms towards a just and lasting peace.”
“Such framework, that will set the parameters for the final peace agreement, shall be agreed upon by both parties. Consequently, we envision and look forward to a country where a united people can live in peace and prosperity,” he said.
“This Joint Communique highlights a significant milestone in the quest of the Filipino people to achieve peace, reconciliation, and unity,” he added.
The Joint Statement is a product of a series of informal discussions held in the Netherlands and Norway starting in 2022 between the emissaries of the Philippine government and NDF, with the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government.
It was signed by Galvez, Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo Jr., retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, and NDF national executive council member Luis Jalandoni, negotiating panel interim chairperson Julieta de Lima, and panel member Coni Ledesma.
Galvez clarified that there will be no resumption of talks, saying “we will start anew.”
He said the Philippine government and the NDF will likely meet by the first quarter of 2024.
Galvez said the signing of the joint communique will have “no immediate effect” either on the continuing operations of the government against armed groups.
“Sa ngayon po, ang ano po natin is, kung ano po ang ginagawa ng gobyerno, patuloy po iyong atin pong programa (Right now, what the government is currently doing will continue. Our programs will continue). So, it is agreed upon that there is no immediate effect,” he said.
AFP chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., who was also present during the press conference, said about 20 weakened guerilla fronts in the country are expected to be “finally dissolved” by the end of the year.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said the security and law enforcement programs of the government should continue, considering that the latest developments are “preliminary exploratory talks.”
Teodoro said the formal transition in pursuing peace with the CPP-NPA-NDF needs to be legislated.
“Our legislators will have to participate in the process. And I think, during our last Senate budget hearing, they are going to study it already and we will work together with them to have an orderly and sustainable transition,” Teodoro said.
“We cannot set a timeline for that. It is very dangerous to set a timeline because [the transition has to be] sustainable,” he added.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said efforts to achieve peace is “surely inclusive and growth-inducing,” while Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said maintaining peace and order is “always a key in every economic development.”
Brawner said the AFP would shift its focus on external or territorial defense, if the conflict ends.
Galvez expressed optimism that the exploratory talks would lead to the issuance of a final peace accord with the NDF.
“I can see that there is a positive outlook na (that) it will end with the final peace agreement. Because our talks in Oslo was founded on good faith and also on goodwill and also in sincerity. When the party said that if we will maintain that goodwill, I think we can finally end up with the final peace agreement,” he said. (PNA)