June 24, 2018, 2:25 pm
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Duterte: Peace talks may resume next month

BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR AND VICTOR REYES

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday said formal peace negotiations between government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) may resume in July.

He said he still needs “more time” and is not yet ready to sit down with the communist leaders this month.

The President made the statement during the oath-taking in Sta. Rosa in Laguna of some 4,000 newly-elected barangay officials from the Calabarzon region. This was shortly after Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza announced in a briefing in Malacañang that there would be no formal peace negotiations between the government and the communist group in Norway by the end of the month.

CPP founder and NDFP consultant Jose Maria “Joma” Sison said Wednesday peace negotiators have agreed to implement a “stand-down agreement” starting Thursday next week “before the June 28-30 formal peace talks in Oslo.”

Duterte said he remains committed to his promise to talk peace with the enemies of the State.

Duterte in April directed officials to work on the resumption of talks with the CPP-NPA-NDFP within 60 days. Dureza said the 60 days ends this month.

Dureza, however, said that after the government panel meeting with the President, Duterte ordered the resetting of the talks to give government a chance to conduct more consultations and really “engage” the public, especially the stakeholders about the peace efforts with the communist group.

“The scheduled supposed resumption of talks that have been earlier subject of the discussions by our backchannel will not happen as originally set and as originally announced in the media,” he said referring to Sison’s announcement.

He said Labor Secretary and government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III has already informed NDFP chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili about the government’s decision.

Dureza said there is a need to engage the public and get their support before the government could return to negotiating table. He said the President has stressed this is the last chance to pursue peace with the communists.

“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,” he said.

He added that the government could not hasten the formal resumption of talks as it wants to ensure that this last chance to talk peace with communist group would not be squandered.

Dureza said the proposed stand-down agreement that was supposed to take effect on June 21 in anticipation of the resumption of talks is also “cancelled for the moment.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Armed Forces and the PNP, while supportive of the peace talks, expressed concern that the NPA might take advantage of the talks by regrouping and recruiting members, like in the past.

He said the President, during a joint command conference in Malacañang on Wednesday night, responded by telling the police and soldiers to give the NPA “the presumption of good faith” and to just “allow the process to continue.”

Sison yesterday accused the Duterte administration of insincerity.

In a statement, Sison said it was “disappointing and frustrating” that the Duterte administration “unilaterally cancelled” the stand-down agreement.

Sison said government and NDFP peace panels signed the written agreements on the stand-down and resumption of the formal talks last week during back-channel talks in Netherlands.

“I urge the two negotiating panels to release to the public and to the press the written and signed agreements of June 9 and 10 signed by the chairmen of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels and by the members of their respective special teams,” said Sison.

“It is starkly clear that the GRP under Duterte is not interested in serious peace negotiations with the NDFP,” said Sison.
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