Philippine Daily Inquirer

GOV’T SETS NEW CON­DI­TIONS FOR TALKS WITH REDS

- By Jean­nette I. An­drade @jian­dradeINQ —WITH RE­PORTS FROM DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., JULIE M. AURE­LIO, FRINSTON LIM, FATE COLOBONG, IANNA GAYLE AGUS ANDAP Military · European Politics · Middle East News · Latin America News · Politics · Warfare and Conflicts · World Politics · Rodrigo Duterte · National Democratic Front · Philippines · New People's Army · Fidel V. Ramos · Communist Party of the Philippines · Communist Party of China · Government of the Philippines · Harry Roque · Norway · Delfin Lorenzana · National Democratic Front · Jose Maria Sison

The gov­ern­ment has set new con­di­tions for the re­sump­tion of peace talks that are likely to be re­jected by the com­mu­nist rebels, in­clud­ing hold­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions in the coun­try, dim­ming the prospect of a set­tle­ment of the nearly 50-year-old in­sur­gency un­der Pres­i­dent Duterte.

“The doors for the re­sump­tion of peace talks with the NDFP (Na­tional Demo­cratic Front of the Philip­pines) are still open,” pres­i­den­tial peace ad­viser Je­sus Dureza said in a state­ment on Thurs­day.

In ad­di­tion to hold­ing the talks in the Philip­pines, rather than abroad as has been done since 1992, Dureza said the re­sump­tion would be sub­ject to other “wishes of the Pres­i­dent.”

The other con­di­tions were no power-shar­ing or a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the com­mu­nist rebels, a stop to their rev­o­lu­tion­ary tax col­lec­tion, and a cease­fire agree­ment re­quir­ing the New Peo­ple’s Army (NPA) en­camped in des­ig­nated ar­eas.

Lo­cal ini­tia­tives

Dureza also said that while both sides awaited the re­sump­tion of for­mal talks, lo­cal of­fi­cials could ini­ti­ate peace ne­go­ti­a­tions with in­sur­gents in their ar­eas.

The con­di­tions were fi­nal­ized in a meet­ing with top mil­i­tary and po­lice of­fi­cials on Wed­nes­day night, Dureza said.

The rebels have re­peat­edly re­jected hold­ing talks in the coun­try and their po­si­tion has been af­firmed in a 1995 agree­ment un­der then Pres­i­dent Fidel Ramos to ne­go­ti­ate in a neu­tral coun­try while giving se­cu­rity and im­mu­nity guar­an­tees to ne­go­tia- tors of both sides and their staff.

In re­sponse, the Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pines (CPP) said Dureza’s state­ment that the doors re­mained open for the talks “is an out­right lie” in­tended to smoke­screen the gov­ern­ment’s re­peated ter­mi­na­tion of the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The CPP said Mr. Duterte for­mally ended the peace talks through a pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion last Novem­ber. This was fol­lowed by an­other procla­ma­tion last De­cem­ber declar­ing the CPP and NPA ter­ror­ists or- ga­ni­za­tions. Both procla­ma­tions have not been re­scinded.

By de­mand­ing to hold talks in the Philip­pines, “Duterte is driv­ing an­other nail to com­pletely shut down the NDFP-GRP peace talks,” the CPP said, adding that the con­di­tion was “un­ac­cept­able and un­work­able for the NDFP.”

Mar­tial law con­di­tions?

“By com­pletely shut­ting the door to the ne­go­ti­a­tions, Duterte is lay­ing down the con­di­tions for im­pos­ing mar­tial law or a gen­eral crack­down, use the ter­ror pro- scrip­tion against the CPP and NPA against his crit­ics and dis­senters against his tyranny, and push Char­ter change for pseudo-fed­er­al­ism to per­pet­u­ate him­self in power,” the CPP added.

Pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Harry Roque said there was no such in­ten­tion.

“The Pres­i­dent has no plans to de­clare na­tion­wide mar­tial law. He has said it would be prob­lem­atic,” Roque said.

He also said Nor­way, which had been bro­ker­ing the talks, could still help “any which way they want” but no longer as third-party fa­cil­i­ta­tor.

But Dureza said Mr. Duterte had “ex­pressed his wish that Nor­way con­tin­ues as fa­cil­i­ta­tor in the event peace talks are re­sumed.

Si­son state­ment

In a sep­a­rate state­ment, CPP found­ing chair Jose Maria Si­son, the chief po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant for the NDFP in the talks, said they would con­sider re­turn­ing to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble only if Mr. Duterte re­vokes his two procla­ma­tions, re­spects all ac­cords reached by the two sides since 1992, and agrees to hold­ing the talks in a for­eign neu­tral venue.

He de­nied that the rebels had de­manded a coali­tion gov­ern­ment or that the rebels had a three-year plan to oust the Pres­i­dent by Oc­to­ber this year, re­fer­ring to a claim by De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana, which he dis­missed was “a mere fab­ri­ca­tion.”

The ru­ral-based in­sur­gency, which has raged since 1969, has left about 40,000 com­bat­ants and civil­ians dead, ham­pered se­cu­rity and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the im­pov­er­ished coun­try­side for nearly half a cen­tury.

The NPA reached a peak strength of about 25,000 in the mid-1980s, but its ranks have since thinned due to sur­ren­ders, bat­tle ca­su­al­ties and splits in the com­mu­nist move­ment in the 1990s.

The mil­i­tary has es­ti­mated that only about 4,000 guer­ril­las were left, but a re­cent mil­i­tary state­ment seemed to con­tra­dict that fig­ure.

Mil­i­tary spokesper­son Col. Edgard Arevalo last week said the NPA had lost 7,531 fight­ers, most of them by sur­ren­der­ing to the gov­ern­ment, in the first six months this year.

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 ?? —DEN­NIS JAY SAN­TOS ?? NPA EN­CAMP­MENT One of the gov­ern­ment con­di­tions an­nounced by pres­i­den­tial ad­viser on the peace process Je­sus Dureza (left) for the re­sump­tion of peace talks with com­mu­nist rebels is a cease­fire agree­ment re­quir­ing the en­camp­ment of New Peo­ple’s Army fight­ers (right) in des­ig­nated ar­eas.
—DEN­NIS JAY SAN­TOS NPA EN­CAMP­MENT One of the gov­ern­ment con­di­tions an­nounced by pres­i­den­tial ad­viser on the peace process Je­sus Dureza (left) for the re­sump­tion of peace talks with com­mu­nist rebels is a cease­fire agree­ment re­quir­ing the en­camp­ment of New Peo­ple’s Army fight­ers (right) in des­ig­nated ar­eas.
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