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PH, NDF hold talks in Oslo

DAVAO CITY – The scheduled exploratory talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) next week in Oslo will determine the trajectory of the peace negotiations that have been held on and off for decades.

This was revealed by NDF spokesman Fidel Agcaoili who flew in to Davao last Tuesday to meet with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte primarily to discuss the possibility of resuming the long-stalled GPH-NDFP peace talks.

Speaking at the conclusion of a peace dialogue hosted by the Ateneo de Davao University, Agcaoili revealed that the forthcoming talks are still very much exploratory in nature and will take off from “previously signed” agreements between the GPH and NDFP.

“You have to understand that this is just preliminary talks. The incoming administration is not yet sitting in power,” Agcaoili said.

The NDFP spokesman said that he has already had three meetings with the incoming president since he arrived in Davao, the latest of which lasted for several hours and ended at around 6 a.m. on Wednesday.

During the meetings, he and the president-elect talked about the three main issues that will be tackled by the NDFP and GPH negotiating teams during their discussions in Norway.

These topics include the granting of general amnesty to political prisoners, the possibility of having an interim GPH-NDFP mutual ceasefire, and the possibility of accelerating the pace of the peace negotiations.

Agcaoili said that President-elect Duterte also raised the possibility of meeting with NDFP chief political consultant. Jose Maria Sison when the incoming chief executive travels to Europe this month to visit the Vatican.

However, he said that the meeting between the president-elect and Sison was a remote possibility, as the former was worried that the dialogue might have certain political implications since he has not yet officially assumed office.

“He (Duterte) also said that it would be better he consolidate his hold on the presidency before he leaves the country,” Agcaoili said, adding that the incoming president plans to send an “emissary” to meet with the NDFP leadership.

In a pre-recorded message aired during the ADDU-sponsored dialogue, Sison lauded President-elect Duterte for extending the hand of peace and taking the initiative to jumpstart the stalled peace negotiations.

“President-elect Duterte has long demonstrated that he has the strength of character, the political will and determination to engage the revolutionary forces and do what is good for the people,” Sison said in his message.