Philippine govt, NDF rebels peace talks ready to resume in Norway: official

19:20, January 06, 2011      

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Norway has informed the Philippine government that everything is set for the resumption of preliminary talks between the Aquino administration and the National Democratic Front in Oslo next month, a senior official said on Thursday.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the Norwegian Government, the third party facilitator for the talks since 2001, has notified the Philippine government that logistical arrangements have been finalized.

"The venue has been reserved so nothing can stop this," Deles said in a radio interview.

The leftist insurgent movement, whose membership ballooned to more than 26,000 in the mid-1980s, has dwindled to 5,000 armed members, according to military estimates.

A final peace agreement is expected to end more than 40 years of armed communist rebellion in the Philippines.

The negotiating panels of the government and the NDF, which is the political wing of the New People's Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), are set to hold informal talks on Feb. 14 to 18.

Deles stressed that this week's scuffle between the NPA guerrillas and military forces in Matuguinao, Samar "does not affect the preparation for the negotiations" amid calls by the rebel group to release captured senior communist guerrilla commander Tirso Alcantara before the talks.

"There are no preconditions to carry on the procedures," Deles said.

The peace adviser said that government security forces are always in "active but defensive mode."

She added that the military have resumed their regular operations with the assurance that they are conscious of the peace process that has been taking place.

"We are well-coordinated with our security forces," Deles said.

Police said Alcantara resisted arrest when police and army intelligence units tracked him to a rebel hideout in Lucena city, Quezon.

According to the Philippine National Police, Alcantara, 57, was the NPA's "regional operational commander" for rebel fronts in several provinces in Luzon.

Alcantara is the highest ranking NPA leader arrested in recent years and had outstanding warrants of arrest for murder, kidnapping and robbery.

But the CPP claimed Alcantara is a "consultant" of the National Democratic Front's peace panel and is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

"Ka Bart (Alcantara) is a leading official of the NPA and the NDFP in Southern Tagalog and is among the NDF's Philippine-based consultants for peace negotiations," it said in a statement.

Source: Xinhua
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