Manila (Agenzia Fides) - The Catholic Church in the Philippines expresses "hope and confidence" for the upcoming peace talks between the Philippine government and the "National Democratic Front" (NDF) which will be held from August 22 to 28 in Oslo, Norway. The NDF represents the political organizations and activists of the Communist rebellion in the country since its independence, and in the last 40 years has claimed many victims (three thousand in the last decade).
In a note sent to Fides, the Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Antonio Ledesma, appreciates "that the two sides sit down to discuss peace and suspend combat operations. It would be contradictory to speak of peace, while the conflict continues. We need serious efforts to reach peace. To begin with, the parties should get to know each other and establish a sort of familiarity: peace begins with friendship", he added.
The talks were preceded by encouraging steps: first of all a truce between the Philippine government and communist rebels. Newly elected president Rodrigo Duterte had announced a unilateral cease-fire of the army in his recent speech on the state of the nation, delivered in late July before Congress. The guerrillas confirmed the truce, in view of the negotiations, after the release of two important Communist leaders, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, who will participate in the negotiations. Two other communist leaders, Alfredo Mapano and Pedro Codaste, were released on bail and will act as "consultants" in the peace talks.
"The cease-fire will go on as long as necessary to ensure peace and the success of the negotiations", said the President of the Philippines’ counselor.
The summit in Oslo will discuss the agreements signed earlier and define a road map for the ceasefire, the end of hostilities and the process of negotiations. An amnesty for the release of over 500 political prisoners and a joint statement on safety and guarantees of immunity will be discussed. There are also the socio-economic reforms on the agenda, on issues dear to the communist groups, operating mainly in the south of the archipelago. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/08/2016)