GMA OKAYS PEACE DEAL W/NPA

Camp Aguinaldo, QC, Jan. 26, 2003 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has approved the government's draft of a final peace agreement with the communists to end a nationwide 34-year insurgency, but warned the offer is only good for those who renounce violence.

The President, who spoke before a gathering of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday, did not elaborate on the peace proposal. She would only say that it meets the standards of sovereignty and the Constitution and had been vetted by congressional leaders and the Armed Forces.

Following the President's speech, military and police officials challenged the communists to show their sincerity toward a lasting peace by accepting the government's proposed peace agreement.

"If they decide not to accept it, then they are not serious about having a peaceful resolution of this conflict," Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said.

Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said formal peace talks can now resume following the President's approval of the draft agreement. But the communists and their armed wing, the NPA, still have to be presented with the proposal.

Self-exiled leader and CPP founder, Jose Ma. Sison, said it was "fine" that the President has expressed willingness to resume the peace negotiations," but he remained skeptical.

"Let us see whether we can resume these (peace talks) in accordance with the Hague Joint Declaration and without any threats and interference from the US," Sison, who's based in Utrecht, The Netherlands, said in response to an e-mailed query from the Inquirer in Lucena City.

He added: "I hope that she ceases to follow the mania of General Angelo Reyes for all-out war."

The peace talks were suspended in June 2001 after the assassination of former Cagayan Rep. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, who was an intelligence officer of the defunct Philippine Constabulary.


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