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Philippines, communist rebels to resume talks

Philippines, communist rebels to resume talks

The Philippine government and communist rebels said Wednesday that they will meet for a fresh round of talks next month after mediation by Norway removed an obstacle in the negotiations.
The rebels refused to meet government negotiators in June, demanding that 13 of its consultants first be released from detention. The rebels claim their consultants _ whose role is to provide them with advice in peace talks_ are covered by immunity from prosecution and were arrested illegally.
Chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni told The Associated Press that both sides agreed to take "positive steps" including efforts to free the detainees during a meeting Tuesday in Manila with Norwegian special envoy Ture Lundh.
Government negotiator Alex Padilla said officials were open to releasing the rebels but did not give any assurances.
"We look forward to the talks, but there was no commitment to release or (make it) a condition," Padilla added.
Jalandoni last week accused the government of holding their consultants in custody for up to seven years despite a 1995 agreement that granted them temporary immunity from arrest.
Padilla said the rebels had not produced proof the detainees are covered by the agreement.
Jalandoni, the representative of the Marxist umbrella group National Democratic Front, said other steps include preparations for the two sides to exchange drafts on social and economic reforms ahead of the October talks in Oslo, Norway.
He said a major point in the negotiations will be rebels' demand for land reform and national industrialization.
Guerrillas have demanded the redistribution of large tracts of farmland owned by wealthy families, which the government says it has already started. They also want more Filipino-owned industries and less dependence on multinational corporations for economic development.
Jalandoni also said they will be discussing political and constitutional reforms.
The rebels have been fighting for a Marxist state since 1969, accusing successive Philippine administrations of subservience to U.S. interests and failing to improve the lives of the poor. Their numbers have dwindled to an estimated 4,000 fighters amid battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism. They are listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.
Jalandoni said that the guerrillas will soon release four jail guards in the southern Philippines who were seized July 21.
He said a municipal mayor detained by the rebels last month was still being investigated. Jalandoni promised to relay to guerrilla fighters the request of the mayor's wife for him to be freed as well.
The rebel command behind the abduction alleged the mayor recruits anti-rebel forces and maintains a private army.


Updated : 2021-06-25 01:39 GMT+08:00