'Peace talks with Reds won't be a walk in the park'

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 29 2016 08:59 PM

MANILA – Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza on Monday urged the public and stakeholders to manage their expectations on the peace process, as talks with communist rebels will not be a walk in the park.

Dureza said while the mood right now between peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are friendly, sensitive issues may surface and dealing with these would not come easy.

''There's still a lot of work to be done. So let's also manage our expectations,'' Dureza said in a news conference immediately after arriving from the week-long talks in Oslo, Norway.

''While we would like to see an early end [to the peace process], please manage expectations. The roadmap is not always rosy. There are humps and bumps along the way."

During the talks in Oslo, the two parties agreed to reaffirm previous agreements and reconstitute the list of political consultants immune from arrest.

They also committed to accelerate peace negotiations, setting a timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks, namely socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The government and the NDFP have also agreed to reconcile their separate unilateral ceasefire declarations into a single unified bilateral document within 60 days from the signing of their joint statement on August 26.

The ceasefire agreement shall be deemed interim in relation to the outcomes of negotiations leading to a Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces. The government wants to fast-track the peace talks, targeting to come up with a final peace agreement in a year.

But even if the two sides manage to hammer out a final peace agreement in a year, Dureza said "the most difficult is implementation of peace agreements, and we learned that from the previously signed agreements."

''That particular phase is as difficult was the negotiation stage, because the expectations of the people from the aground are heightened."

The Communist Party of the Philippines launched a rebellion in 1968 that has so far claimed the lives of 30,000 people, according to official estimates.

Its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), is now believed to have fewer than 4,000 gunmen, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, when a bloodless revolt ended the 20-year dictatorship of late president Ferdinand Marcos.

They remain particularly active in rural areas, where they are notorious for extorting money from local businesses. They also regularly attack police and military forces, sometimes targeting them in urban areas.

In 2002, the US State Department designated the Communist Party and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

Forging peace with the rebels has been the elusive goal of Philippine presidents since a 1986 revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos. – with AFP