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Filipinos asked not to lose interest in peace process

Urges civil society to “guard and support negotiations”

Gulf News

Manila: Government peace panel chair Alexander Padilla aired a renewed call to Filipinos, especially the civil society, to “guard and support” the peace negotiations” as parlays appear to lose steam.

“Unlike the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace process, interest in the National Democratic Front (NDF), Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/New Peoples Army (NPA) peace process is not as much, it is lacking in CSO (civil society organisation) participation,” Padilla observed during a recent forum held in Makati City entitled “Forging Peace for Development.”

Peace negotiations between the government of President Benigno Aquino III and the 44-year-old Philippine communist insurgency movement had taken off on a strong start in 2010, however, several months after, the initiative seem to lose impetus and this observation is not lost on peace negotiators themselves.

“It is difficult for the peace panels to see that they are the only ones interested in negotiating for peace…that is why they need support,” Padilla said.

Earlier, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Spokesperson Polly Michelle Cunanan said OPAPP is looking into the release of alleged consultants of the NDF in line with legal processes.

“OPAPP is conducting an internal review process in accordance with our laws and court processes as this remains a priority,” she said amid calls by left-wing groups to free the detained alleged NDF consultants.

“OPAPP is pursuing different paths to a durable peace, including the peace negotiations and everything that it entails,” Cunanan said. “Besides the informal talks which are happening outside the public view, OPAPP is pursuing socio-economic and development programmes at the grassroots, and leading the discussion and actions in government on the release of detainees.”

The NDF had long been urging the government to free its detained alleged consultants which they claim to be covered by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as a precondition to resume formal talks that have been stalled since February 2011.

Padilla for his part, said the panel recognised the challenges in the peace talks with the NDF, but they remain optimistic that a “final negotiated political settlement is desired to be completed and implemented” during the term of President Benigno Aquino III.

Padilla said concerted effort is necessary for peace to be achieved with the communist insurgents. “Please put your ten-cents worth… watch over us. Make us honest and tell it to the NDF too,” he said while adding that “active participation and involvement” of the people are necessary for the negotiations to succeed.

“The the panels will come to an agreement because there is no other choice. We have only one country and there is no other course than the course of peace” he said.

“Peace is the only way to go,” Padilla concluded.

The insurgency conflict which continues to rage over most parts of the Philippine archipelago had claimed the lives of an estimated 140,000 combatants and civilians over the 44 year period.