Malacañang on Sunday said it hopes that the recent meeting between House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison will lead to a resumption of peace talks with the Communist rebels.
“Sana po mula doon sa inisyal na pakikipag-usap ni Speaker Belmonte sa mga lider ng CPP-NPA-NDF sa the Netherlands ay magkaroon po ng progreso hinggil sa muling pagbubukas ng diyalogo o usapan sa pagitan ng dalawang panig,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview over state-run dzRB radio.
But while the government is hopeful about the resumption of peace talks with the CPP-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), Coloma said the timing of the two parties’ return to the negotiating table will depend on the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
“Depende po ‘yan sa magiging ugnayan ng ating Office of the Presidential [Adviser] on the Peace Process, sina Secretary Teresita ‘Ging’ Deles. Sila po ay mayroong aktibong desk na para po diyan sa usaping pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng pamahalaan at ng CPP-NPA-NDF,” he said.
Formal peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF bogged down in April 2013, with the government saying the negotiations were “going nowhere” after a 22-month.
Belmonte and three other House leaders met with Sison, NDF peace negotiating panel chair Luis Jalandoni and NDF secretariat chair Ruth de Leon Zumel in a restaurant in Amsterdam on July 9 (July 10 in Manila), a move that the House speaker described as a way to build confidence between the two parties.
Accompanying Belmonte during the meeting were Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Appropriations panel chair Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, and Accounts committee chair Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona.
The House speaker is in the Netherlands to observe the oral arguments before the United Nations arbitral tribunal on the Philippines’ protest against China’s territorial claim over a large part of the South China Sea.
In a text message sent from the Netherlands, Belmonte echoed Coloma’s desire for the peace talks with the Communist rebels to resume soon.
“If successful, [that] will be a great legacy for PNoy. It would mean that any remaining [revolutionary] forces are just bandits,” he said.
In April, Jalandoni said that peace talks could resume before the end of President Benigno Aquino III’s term.
He said, however, that that cannot happen unless the government releases 16 NDF peace consultants, including Benito and Wilma Tiamzon whom the government says are top officials of the CPP-NPA.
Jalandoni said, however, that the peace process cannot lead to the surrender of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
Last December, Sison said that a resumption of formal peace talks is possible in 2015.
“Kung mapakatino ang rehimeng Aquino at OPAPP, posible pang matapos ang Comprehensive Agreement on Economic Reforms at Agreement on Truce and Cooperation bago matapos ang term ni Aquino,” he said.
In 2014, the government signed a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and is now pushing for passage of legislation that will operationalize the deal.