Peace deal with NDF in 2016 still uncertain, says Deles

by Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 02 2014 11:28 AM | Updated as of Feb 02 2014 07:28 PM

MANILA - While the peace pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is now on its final stretch, it remains uncertain whether a peace deal with the communists will be reached before President Aquino steps down in 2016.

Officials admitted that talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) are at an impasse, but they remain hopeful all stakeholders will still cobble together a peace agreement.

“Mahirap yung (negotiating) table talaga but I think if we don’t give up, there can be a way for the communities affected,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles told STAR editors and reporters last Friday.

When asked whether it is possible that no peace accord will be reached with the NDF by 2016, Deles said: “My job is not to give up so I will never say no.”

“We are hoping that by 2016... the communities will see that there is a way to peace, that they will be confident that there can be peace,” she added.

Negotiations between the government and the NDF hit an impasse over differences on the rebels’ demand to free communist leaders with criminal cases. The NDF represents the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines in the peace talks.

The NDF said jailed communist leaders should be freed since they are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which provides peace consultants immunity from arrest.

Government negotiators, however, said the NDF has no way to prove that the jailed rebels, especially those using aliases, are really peace consultants.

The stalemate has prompted government negotiators to look at a “new approach” to attain peace in communist-affected areas.

“The new approach is more on what needs to happen on the ground. The new approach is trying to build more mechanisms among people to work for peace,” Deles said.

“Peace process is always better if the leadership of the parties are able to talk but some things really need to happen on the ground to convince the leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF that we have to talk, that we should come where there is a way of moving forward,” she added.