Resume peace talks, say Philippines church leaders

Resume peace talks, say Philippines church leaders

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the largest ecumenical formation of church leaders in the Philippines, has expressed its apprehension over the news that the second round of the formal peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may not take place in June, as scheduled, following an impasse.

“This douses the jubilation we had following the successful resumption of the formal peace talks on February 15-21,” the PEPP said.

Mr Luis Jalandoni, Chief Negotiator for the NDFP, has called for the postponement of the talks following the refusal of the Philippine government to release two consultants of the NDFP, Mr Allan Jazmines and Mr Tirso Alcantara.

The NDFP claims that Mr Jazmines and Mr Alcantara are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The Government, through the Department of National Defense, has refused to release the two saying that the NDFP should not use the formal talks to secure their release.

The PEPP said, “As a church-based peace advocate, we urge the two parties to remain focused on seeing the peace process through. We stand by our previous call that the two parties honor the previously signed agreements like The Hague Joint Declaration and all other bilateral agreements.

“Specifically, we urge both parties to honor the terms of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) agreed upon in March 16, 1998 and in so far as practical measures in pursuit of this concern have been reiterated in the Oslo Joint Statement dated February 21, 2011.

“We call on the two parties to follow the spirit of the JASIG as it is a crucial issue around the formal peace talks. Its faithful implementation enables the two parties to resume the negotiations in earnest.

“On the agenda of the formal peace talks are the social and economic reforms. This second substantive agenda is very central to the negotiations as it seeks solutions to address the roots of armed conflict that has afflicted our land for decades.

“Finally, we reiterate our unceasing call for the people to support the peace negotiations. Primarily, our task is to be vigilant lest groups or acts that undermine our aspiration for a just and lasting peace take the upper hand.

“A just and peaceful country is possible if we remain focused on the road to peace. We owe it to ourselves and the future generations.”

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