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Philippine Protestant council hails plan to resume peace talks

March 7, 2011

MANILA

An agreement between the Philippine government and the communist-led National Democratic Front to resume peace talks offers opportunities to end a 42-year armed conflict in this Southeast Asian nation, said a Protestant council.

“We are edified that both panels ‘recognized the need to resume the formal peace negotiations in order to resolve the armed conflict by addressing its root causes,’” said the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

The organization of ten mainline Protestant churches issued the statement on Feb. 23 after the government panel and the Front agreed on “a road map for continued peace talks” after meeting Feb. 15-21 in Oslo.

“We commend both panels for setting up time frames and for the work of the reciprocal working groups,” said the statement signed by NCCP chairperson Bishop Nathanael Lazaro and general secretary Fr. Rex Reyes.

The two sides agreed to meet again in April and every two months after that. A joint statement following the talks in Oslo said a draft comprehensive agreement on ending hostilities “may be completed and signed by the panels in June 2012.”

The New People’s Army, the armed wing of the clandestine Communist Party of the Philippines (which leads the Front), has been waging a guerrilla warfare against the government since its founding in 1969.

Many of the guerilla leaders were landless farmers demanding the distribution of vast tracts of lands controlled by a few landlords, many of them political families. Distribution of lands to landless farmers is expected to be addressed in the talks.

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