MANILA -- The government peace panel has maintained its decision not to participate in the fifth round of talks with the communist group set on May 27 to June 1 in Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza clarified though that the government is not terminating the peace process.
"The decision is not to participate (in the 5th round of talks)... we will see how this will impact on the whole gamut of the peace process," he said in a press briefing Sunday, 9 p.m. Dutch time (around 3 a.m. Monday, Philippine time).
He said "there are no compelling reasons for us to change that decision that have been arrived at and which we announced yesterday (Saturday)."
He was referring to the government’s demand that it will not proceed to participate in the negotiations until "there are clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land through peace negotiations across this table shall prevail."
But Dureza said that informal talks with stakeholders will still take place. "We will continue engaging with the stakeholders."
He added that the order to withdraw from the May 27 talks came directly from President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Any decision we make here is, of course, vetted with the President," he said.
Earlier, the presidential peace adviser said the government is withdrawing from the peace talks due to "blatant and serious challenge" being posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) to the Duterte government.
The challenges Dureza was referring to are the following:
* The noticeable upscale of incidents of offensive attacks by the NPA throughout the country;
* The seeming perception of the bigger public that these NPA operations are in open and public defiance of Duterte who has constantly accommodated them in unprecedented ways;
* The renewed surfacing of public apprehension questioning the sincerity of the CPP-NPA-NDF in the peace talks;
* Public admission of some panel members of the CPP-NPA-NDF leaders that they have no control over their forces in the ground;
* The sudden and perceptible erosion of public support to the peace talks with strong messages received from the public to altogether stop peace negotiations;
* The clamor now to pursue instead localized peace talks;
* And the latest and recent President's public statements that he will no longer sign agreements with the CPP-NPA-NDF if all of these will continue and not addressed.
Most disturbing of all, Dureza said, is the blatant public announcement of the CPP ordering its forces on the ground to accelerate and intensify attacks against the government in the wake of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, which was principally directed against the extremists and terrorists who are challenging government forces in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
But the NDF, in response to Dureza’s statement on Saturday, said there is no truth to the claim that the government has complied with all of its obligations and commitments, especially the release of political prisoners who are unjustly detained.
There is also no basis for the government’s claim that there is a sudden and perceptible erosion of public support to the peace talks, the NDF said.
READ: National Democratic Front still open to peace talks
The marked progress in the talks in the past months has in fact heightened the people’s interest and confidence that the negotiations could lead to social and economic reforms that would improve their lives, the communist group added.
The government's decision, the NDF said, threatens to squander the goodwill and the gains that have already been achieved in the peace negotiations in the past nine months, especially in the crafting of a substantive agreement on social and economic reforms. (PNA)