Monday August 20, 2018

Duterte not ready to resume peace talks

MANILA. Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison (right) wants to resume the peace talks in late June, but President Rodrigo Duterte said he is not ready yet and needs more time before allowing the talks to proceed. (File Photo)

(UPDATED) - Peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels will not happen this month, as proposed by communist leader Jose Maria Sison.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, June 14, said he needs "more time" before allowing the talks to resume.

"I’m talking to Sison. He said (he wants the talks to resume) in June. I’m not ready for that. I still need more time," Duterte said before the newly-elected village officials of Calabarzon.

Duterte made the remark shortly after Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced a delay in the revival of the talks because the President wants to conduct a public consultation first.

Speaking to Palace reporters, Dureza said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the government's chief peace negotiator, already informed National Democratic Front (NDF) chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili regarding the latest development.

Dureza stressed that there is a need to "engage the public and get their support" before the government heads back to the negotiating table. Duterte earlier said he expected the talks to resume in mid-July.

"In our common effort to make sure that we achieve a conducive and enabling environment for peace, President Rodrigo Duterte instructed us to engage our bigger peace table to general public, as well as other sectors in government as we work to negotiate peace with the communist rebels," Dureza said.

"The scheduled supposed resumption of talks that have been earlier subject of discussions by our back-channel (negotiations) will not happen as originally set and as originally announced in the media," he added.

In November last year, Duterte inked Proclamation 360, formally scrapping the peace talks after the New People's Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, continued to attack law enforcers.

But in early April, the President gave the communist party "another last chance" and said he will revive the peace negotiations, on the condition that the NPA stop extortion, arson attacks, and killings.

Back-channel talks

Duterte's nod to another round of talks paved the way for the back-channel negotiations between the government peace negotiators and the NDF consultants in May.

On June 7, the President said he was expecting that the government's peace negotiations with the communist guerillas would formally resume by mid-July.

CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, however, said on June 8 that the stalled peace talks should begin on June 28 to 30 in Oslo, Norway.

Dureza said the government could not hasten the formal resumption of talks and would like to take advantage of the "last opportunity" to negotiate with the communists "without squandering."

He said the government peace panel feels the communists' sincerity to revive the talks, but "other factors" still have to be considered.

"The formal resumption will have to be done but the government had to make a final call on whether we proceed with the resumption. There are still many things to be done in the negotiations. We could not expedite it," he said.

"We would like to take full advantage of this last opportunity without squandering... Let's not squander the last chance and let's do anything possible," he added.


Meanwhile, Malacañang said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have expressed support to the impending resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the communists.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said both high-ranking officials of the AFP and the PNP made the commitment to back the revival of talks during the joint command conference with Duterte held Wednesday, June 13, at Malacañan Palace.

Roque said the state forces "fully support" the administration's resolve to achieve peace and order in the country, even though they feared that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA) may use the revived peace dialogue to regroup.

"The President also wants the cooperation of our men in uniform in the peace talks. It appears that both the PNP and the AFP are fully supportive of the peace talks, although there was a warning that in the past, the CPP-NPA would take advantage of the peace talks to regroup and to strengthen their ranks," he told a press conference.

"There was just a warning. But the President advised that let us, you know, give them the presumption of good faith and that let's allow the process to continue," the Palace official added.

Roque said Duterte reiterated his commitment to arrive at a "permanent" peace pact with the communists to put an end to the "longest running insurgency in the planet." (SunStar Philippines)