By Ben Cal
The government is eyeing a time and agenda-bound talks with the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) within three years to settle peacefully the more than 40 years of armed conflict in the country.
This was bared by Health Undersecretary Alex Padilla who is concurrently the chairman of the newly reconstituted Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRPH) peace panel tasked to negotiate with the NDF.
Padilla told reporters that the agenda-bound and time-bound framework is necessary for both sides to reach a peace accord.
Talks with the NDF have been off-and-on the past 24 years, making it the longest negotiations to end the insurgency warfare in the world.
Padilla said peace talks between warring groups in the Ireland conflict settled in 1998 was completed in three years, despite the fact that there were 19 parties involved.
Yet, the Philippines has yet to settle the communist insurgency up to this time, Padilla said.
He expressed the hope that with an agenda-bound and timeline of three years the armed conflict with the NPA will be settled.
Padilla said the Aquino administration is sincere in ending once and for all the insurgency war that has caused havoc to lives and property amounting to billions of pesos that could have been used for development.
The second round of informal dialogue between the government and the NDF will be held in Oslo, Norway on Jan. 15-17. The first was held in Hong Kong last Dec. 1-2.
Padilla is expected to leave for Norway on Jan. 14, 20ll for talks with his NDF counterpart, Luis Jalandoni. Formal peace negotiations will be in February also in Norway.
The NDF withdrew from formal talks in August 2005 after the United States tagged the NPA as a terrorist organization.
However, back-channeling talks continued during the five-year period.
As part of the peace confidence-building measure the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is observing a 19-day Christmas ceasefire that started on Dec. 16, 2010 until Jan. 3, 2011.
The military continued to observe the ceasefire despite two provocative actions by the NPA – the slaying of 10 Army troopers and a nine-year old boy in an ambush in Las Navas, Northern Samar two days before the holiday truce took effect, and the attempted killing of a government militia in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental early this week.
The government has opted to continue the ceasefire despite these two incidents as a gesture of goodwill for the resumption of the stalled peace negotiations.
The AFP has asked the NDF to tell NPA rebels to refrain from violent attacks during the ceasefire period. (PNA)