Saturday, June 9, 2018

Duterte: Peace talks with Reds may resume in July

From the Philippine Star (Jun 9): Duterte: Peace talks with Reds may resume in July                          

After giving a two-month ultimatum to return to the negotiating table, President Duterte revealed Thursday that formal peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels may resume in July.

Duterte told the gathering of new-elected barangay chairmen in Lapu-Lapu City of positive developments in the peace talks with the communists.

He said he called on exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison to come to start the peace talks.
“I will be talking to the rebels. I’m talking to Sison. We will start the talks maybe July,” he said.

Duterte in November cancelled the peace talks with communist rebels, accusing them of bad faith in deadly attacks against soldiers and police while peace negotiations are ongoing.

Duterte had already shelved a round of negotiations in May and informal talks in July last year, citing deadly guerrilla attacks on security forces.

Duterte appealed to the communist rebels to lay down their arms as a sign of good faith for the renewed peace negotiations.

“If there will be no decommissioning of firearms, nothing will happen,” he said.

Sison earlier reiterated he will only return to the country if there will be substantial progress in the peace talks.

Sison pressed for a ceasefire deal, amnesty proclamation for political prisoners and an agreement on agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development, key components of the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, as vital parts of the interim peace agreement.

Sison said the peace negotiations have become even more pressing due to the economic crisis, imperial exploitation and plunder of the country. 

 Government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello III said the peace panel will seek an interim peace agreement with the National Democratic Front (NDF) before the formal restart of the peace talks.

The NDF is the umbrella organization representing the CPP and its guerrilla front, New People’s Army (NPA), in the peace talks with the government.

Bello said the interim peace agreement will be coupled with a coordinated unilateral ceasefire.

From there, Bello said they will be talking about possible proclamation of amnesty for the rebels but subject to concurrence of Congress.

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), however, decried the continued harassment by the military on communities suspected of harboring the NPA.

Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should refrain from militarizing communities once peace talks resume.

“The bigger concern right now – a major hindrance to peace – is the intensifying AFP operations against civilians,” Reyes said.

“Communities continue to be militarized. Civilians are being rounded up and forced to ‘surrender’ as NPA combatants. Activists are being arrested and slapped with trumped-up charges,” he said.

The group said the AFP and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana should explain if the arrests of civilians that included farmers and activists would cease one peace talks resume.

“The way we see it, the biggest threats to the resumption of the peace talks come from the ranks of the military, from the likes of Lorenzana,” he said.

Reyes said Bayan supports the resumption of the peace talks to address the roots of the armed conflict.

“This goes beyond just ceasefire agreements. Socio-economic reforms are urgently needed to address poverty, which is the reason why rebellion exists in the country,” Reyes said.

This developed as the military raided a suspected food supply chain of the NPA in Bukidnon on Wednesday.

On the other hand, the military killed a suspected NPA rebel during an encounter in Apayao province yesterday.

The military said this showed the communist leadership has heightened their recruitment of new members in a bid to reestablish their presence in key areas in Northern Luzon, Southern Tagalog and the Visayas.

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