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Asia

Philippines, NDF agree on timeframe for peace deal

The government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) agree on a timeframe for working groups to draft comprehensive agreements over the coming months - aiming to sign a first peace deal ending hostilities by June 2012.

Negotiators shaking hands in Oslo

Negotiators shaking hands in Oslo

The negotiations in Oslo were the first between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front since 2004. The communist insurgency has been going on for four decades, making it one of the longest rebellions in Asia. The communists' New People's Army still has several thousand guerillas, mostly in poor rural areas.

Satur Ocampo was a well-known left-wing politician in the Philippines

Satur Ocampo was a well-known left-wing politician in the Philippines

Satur Ocampo, a former member of the Philippine Congress who has been following the peace negotiations as a journalist says the latest meeting in the Norwegian capital dealt with issues of social and economic reforms where both sides "have agreed to set three bilateral meetings, the first one in the second week of June."

First timeframe for social and economic reforms

It will include "discussions on agrarian reforms, industrial policy, which would entail a review of the current policies, and programs that have been adopted, that the National Democratic Front wants to be changed into something more affirmative of Philippine national sovereignty and independence," Ocampo explains "and giving into the hands of Filipinos the control of national industrialization."

Satur Ocampo, who also served as an NDF negotiator in the first round of peace talks held in the 1980s, says the 18 month target set by the two sides is only for the first 'comprehensive agreement' on social and economic reforms.

There will be two other main agendas after that. One is the "political and constitutional reforms, for which the two sides plan to have a draft by February 2012 and the agreement on ending hostilities and disposition of forces by June 2012."

The NDF wants a different economic policy

The NDF wants a different economic policy

The negotiators have agreed to complete draft agreements on all three aspects by June 2012, preparing the ground for a final political settlement. Ocampo says the whole process could then be finished in about three years.

Dealing with human rights violations

Joint monitoring teams of both sides will also meet in March to look into the implementation of agreements on the compensation for victims of human rights violations and the investigation of complaints that have accumulated up to 2010.

The peace negotiations give "the long pending questions on grievances of the victims of human rights violations" a chance to be addressed, says Ocampo. "This would be beneficial to the people who have been victimized both under the Marcos dictatorship and in the conduct of the civil war both on the side of the government and on the side of the National Democratic Front."

He adds that if not solved, these issues could become hurdles in the peace negotiations, "so this would be a test of the sincerity of both sides in complying with the agreement."

The People Power Revolution in the Philippines ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos 25 years ago

The "People Power" Revolution in the Philippines ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos 25 years ago

If this next step is dealt with successfully, Ocampo believes the prospects for negotiations on the crucial social and economic reforms will greatly improve.

The agreement between the Philippine government and the NDF on Monday came a day before the 25th anniversary of the "People Power" Revolution in the Philippines, which began on February 22, 1986. The four day revolt eventually led to dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family fleeing to Hawaii, where he died three years later.

Author: Sherpem Sherpa
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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