Maoists want Manila to free more rebels before talks resume

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 03, 2011 3:53 AM
Maoists want Manila to free more rebels before talks resume

MANILA (Reuters) - Maoist rebels Saturday demanded the release of at least five more detained guerrilla leaders before peace negotiations could resume with the Philippines government, the chief negotiator of the communist-led National Democratic Front said.

Luis Jalandoni, a former Roman Catholic priest, said his group had also offered a truce and power-sharing deal with the government of President Benigno Aquino, opening a second track of negotiations to speed up the slow and tedious peace process.

"It's a bold and innovative proposal," Jalandoni said, adding his group sent a confidential letter to Aquino on January 18, proposing an alliance and truce with government.

He said the proposed political deal envisions social and economic reforms and nationalising industries, including mining and oil-and-gas projects.

Jalandoni, who has acquired Dutch citizenship, said Aquino has responded by sending an emissary -- a senior government official -- for an initial discussion.

A second meeting with Aquino's emissary set last month did not push through due to a "negative atmosphere."

Since 1986, the two sides have been negotiating to end 40 years of Maoist-led insurgency that has killed 40,000 people and hobbled growth and development in poor but resource-rich rural areas across the archipelago of 7,100 islands.

The stop-start negotiations resumed in February after talks stalled for nearly seven years. But meetings scheduled in June had been reset twice after Manila failed honor its pledge to free 17 detained rebel leaders involved in the peace talks.

Manila is talking separately with Muslim separatist rebels, but negotiations in Kuala Lumpur stalled last month when the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rejected Manila's deal, although both sides says talks will continue.

Last month, Aquino also met with MILF leader, al haj Murad Ebrahim, in Tokyo.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Ed Lane)