Frequently asked questions on the possible resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks

On November 23, this year, the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) Peace Negotiating Panel and designated representatives of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) signed a Joint Statement in Oslo, Norway declaring their intention to resume the peace negotiations which were terminated by the Duterte regime in 2017.

The November 23 Oslo Joint Statement is a product of a series of informal discussions in the Netherlands and climaxed in Norway between emissaries of the GRP and the NDFP Peace panel with the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) that started in 2022.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement that it welcomes the signing of the joint statement but averred that the path to the resumption of the peace talks and towards a just and lasting peace, is “filled with thorns and spikes”.

“This is only the first half step to reopening negotiations. It may lead to the actual reopening of peace talks, and also possibly not,” the CPP stressed.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions and short answers on what you need to know about the potential resumption of the peace negotiations.

Q. Why are there peace talks?

A. There are peace talks because there is a war. The NDFP and GRP are co-belligerents in the civil war in the Philippines. They represent diametrically opposed interests and goals but meet in negotiations under the declared objective of achieving a just and lasting peace.

Q: Why did the NDFP decide to enter into negotiations again with the GRP?

A. The NDFP has always made it clear that it is open to the resumption of the negotiations terminated by the GRP during the time of Duterte.

The NDFP holds firmly the principle that only by genuinely addressing the root causes of the armed conflict – landlessness of majority of Filipino peasants, poverty, joblessness, bureaucratic corruption, fascism, and foreign domination of the economy – will genuine and lasting peace reign.

Q: Why talk at this time or period?

A. The resumption of the negotiations by the Marcos Jr. regime is a recognition of the political, economic, and social crises of the ruling system.

It is also a recognition, albeit openly denied, of the strength of the revolutionary movement, that there is a civil war between the GRP and the revolutionary movement, and that there exist two governments in the Philippines.

Q: Will this round of peace talks be a “restart” or a “do over”?

A: The NDFP enters the talks with a clear intention of building on past achievements of the negotiations including honoring and respecting previous bilateral agreements. Any notion or suggestion of a “restart” or a “do over” of the negotiations practically disregards previous milestone agreements between the GRP and the NDFP namely the Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) all of which remain binding between the two Parties.

Q: What was the status of previous agreement during periods when there were no formal talks?

A: The previous bilateral agreements forged including the Hague Joint Declaration, JASIG, and CARHRIHL remain binding between the two Parties with or without the formal peace negotiations in place.

Q: Will the NDFP end armed struggle, now that the peace talks can potentially resume again?

A. The peace negotiations are not negotiations for capitulation but rather a unique opportunity to find mutually acceptable and principled ways of addressing the root causes of the civil war, as well as identify joint and separate commitments, to genuinely resolve the real reasons for the armed conflict.

The peace negotiations are only one among other more decisive means to address the root causes of the armed conflict. The national-democratic revolution is in fact, a struggle for a just and lasting peace.

The point of entering peace negotiations is to address the roots of the armed conflict. There should be no insinuation, much less demand, for the NDFP and the revolutionary forces to end armed struggle until such time that fundamental socio-economic issues and political and constitutional reforms are addressed within the framework set by the Hague Joint Declaration.

Q: Will the NDFP declare a ceasefire?

A. Demanding from the NDFP a permanent or indefinite ceasefire amounts to the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces and people and therefore the end of the peace negotiations without any substantive agreement on basic reforms.

Ceasefire is an issue that could be discussed by both parties as have been done in the past. But ceasefire(s) as a precondition for the resumption of the negotiations or of forging an agreement violates the Hague Joint Declaration which stipulates that there should be no precondition whatsoever which negates the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations (From Prof. Jose Maria Sison on his current status, the People’s War and the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations, LI, June 29, 2008)

However, should there be an agreement(s) on a possible ceasefire later in the course of the peace negotiations, the NDFP Peace Panel would relay this intent to the CPP which has the sole authority to order the NPA to cease from offensive operations against the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police). And even if a ceasefire happens at all, the CPP always reminds the NPA to remain vigilant and ready for self-defense whenever necessary because of the treachery of the AFP.

Q: Does the NDFP have (any) preconditions for the continuation of the negotiations?

A. None at all.

However, there are critical and practical measures, without which, it is doubtful that peace negotiations can progress, among which are: (a) releasing all the NDFP peace consultants to allow them to take part in the discussions and negotiations; (b) rescinding the “terrorist designation” of the NDFP, and that of Ka Luis Jalandoni, the CPP, the NPA and other personnel of the NDFP, and (c) building on the basic bilateral agreements, namely, The Hague Joint Declaration of September 1, 1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which remain binding between the Parties.

Addressing these practical issues means complying and honoring previous bilateral agreements signed by both Parties to the negotiations. And these are all doable on the part of the GRP.

Q: What benefits have been gained by the Filipino people from the peace talks since it started in 1986?

A. The peace negotiations benefit the people because it provides a window, however narrow, to address the basic problems of the Filipino people. These provide an opportunity for both Parties in the armed conflict, to show how they are going to address the basic problems of the people.

The various agreements forged during the peace negotiations since these were started, including the Hague Joint Declaration, the CAHRIHL, and the drafts of the CASER of the both the GRP and NDFP, are achievements and can be used to promote people’s rights and improve their welfare. Should the resumption of the peace negotiations happen at all, the forging of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms will be the heart and soul, so to speak, of the peace talks because it will address landlessness, rural underdevelopment, poverty, national industrialization and environmental degradation.