Progressive solons welcome resumption of peace talks

MANILA-- Two lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives on Monday welcomed the resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) panels.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the two-day informal talks in the Netherlands, both parties agreed to resume the stalled peace negotiations in the first week of April in Oslo, Norway.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice-chair of the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, said this new development could help advance the gains achieved in the previous rounds of peace talks.

Zarate said both parties could work on the socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms in a bid to address the root causes of the five-decade old armed conflict.

Earlier, the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity has approved House Resolution 769 for the formal resumption of the peace negotiations with at least 140 solons signing it.

"Indeed, our peoples' long quest for a just and lasting peace in our country should always be a compelling reason to forge ahead with the peace negotiations; it should trump any and all attempts by the saboteurs and militarists in the government to derail our peoples' aspirations," Zarate said.

For his part, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao urged President Rodrigo Duterte to call off his pronouncement to "flatten hills" in pursuit of New People's Army (NPA) guerrilla fighters, as well as military occupation of farmer communities.

"It is apparent that the president continues to heed the call for the resumption of the talks. Hence, we take advantage of this opportunity to demand respect of human rights, especially of non-combatants, against violations such as aerial bombings and military occupation of their communities," Casilao said.

The Utrecht Joint Statement issued by both panels, included six consensus points: (1) reaffirmation of past agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian law (CARHRIHL), and The Hague Joint Declaration; (2) ceasefires before the fourth round of formal talks in April; (3) release of a re-arrested NDFP consultant and ensure immunity of the consultants; (4) releases of NDFP consultants and political prisoners on humanitarian grounds; (5) safekeeping of the list under JASIG; (6) the fourth round of talks will be on the first week of April and the fifth in June.

Casilao also urged both panels to fully commit on the agreements such as the implementation of the JASIG, releases of the NDFP consultants, sickly, elderly and women political prisoners, and ultimately implement CARHRIHL.

Source: Philippines News Agency