Gov't begins informal peace talks with CPP-NPA-NDF

By Azer Parrocha

May 8, 2018, 6:07 pm

MANILA -- The Philippine government (GPH) has started engaging the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in informal peace talks in Europe, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III have informed President Rodrigo R. Duterte about this development during the 25th Cabinet meeting on Monday.

“President Duterte was briefed last night after the Cabinet meeting by Cabinet Secretaries Jesus Dureza and Silvestre Bello to inform him that the efforts to resume peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF are underway with backchannel informal talks now taking place in Europe,” Roque said, reading from the statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Roque said Dureza and Bello have also informed the President that his clear directives are being relayed across the table, and are now the subject of discussions in the ongoing meetings.

“Our team is now in Europe, and we are informed that there are initial positive results so far -- this, according to Secretary Dureza,” Roque said, reading Dureza’s statement.

Roque, meanwhile, said that according to Bello, the team will return home “soon” to personally brief the President of the outcome.

“We are doing our best to meet the deadlines set by the President about the resumption of talks within 60 days,” Roque said, reading Bello’s statement.

Last month, Roque said the Duterte administration may withdraw its petition to declare communist rebels as terrorists but only once formal peace agreements have been signed.

Duterte himself said that he is willing to resume peace talks under three conditions -- absolute ceasefire; no collection of revolutionary taxes; and no coalition government.

Should peace negotiations resume, Roque said that the government could file a manifestation to hold the petition in abeyance, pending the outcome of the peace talks. The petition stays until there is a final peace agreement signed.

“I think it will be withdrawn if there is a final peace agreements signed. But while the peace talks are ongoing, what we can do is keep it there,” Roque said.

Roque confirmed that Duterte also vowed to assist members of the CPP-NPA if they agree to his terms.

“Well, he will find ways and means to assist members of the CPP-NPA by way of providing them livelihood and housing if possible; provided that they cease and desist from collecting revolutionary taxes,” Roque said.

Duterte started formal peace talks with the NDFP shortly after he became President in 2016 but canceled them in November last year amid continued attacks by the NPA on government forces.

He issued a proclamation classifying the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization in December last year. (PNA)