MANILA – The country's military chief on Tuesday said the exploratory talks between the government and the communist movement might lead to lasting peace as the latter did not set any preconditions to it.
"I believe that this could lead to lasting peace. Unang una because sabi nga nila walang (first of all, they said there will no) preconditions, there will be no ceasefire, there will be no release of political prisoners, and (this is just) exploratory talks," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
Brawner, however, said military units will continue their operations against the communist insurgents.
"As long as we know what our task is, what our mission is, then tuloy-tuloy lang yung gagawin natin na operations (we will just continue with our operations)," Brawner said.
Last month, the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) agreed to a "principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict" through the Oslo Joint Communique.
On Monday, Vice President Sara Duterte called the joint communique as an "agreement with the devil", noting that the communist movement was never sincere in talking about peace.
Brawner, meanwhile, said he cannot blame some sectors that expressed reservation on the measure due to the events that transpired from the previous peace talks, where the communist movement and its allies imposed many demands from the government, including the release of its jailed politcal leaders.
There were also instances when New People's Army remnants are strengthened during ceasefires.
Brawner said he is optimistic on the measure as all avenues that can promote lasting peace will be used after more than five decades of conflict.
"It also claimed a lot of lives from both sides, even innocent civilians, even from our end, naging personal na sa akin ito (this is also personal for me) because I lost a cousin, we lost classmates and colleagues," he added.
Support to anti-insurgency efforts
Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) reaffirmed its commitment to support initiatives of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to attain inclusive and sustainable peace and development.
In a statement Tuesday, DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. said over 6 million residents in conflict-hit areas have benefited from 3,460 completed projects under the NTF-ELCAC's Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP).
Such projects include farm-to-market roads, water systems, school buildings, health stations, rural electrification, Covid-19 projects, and training and livelihood assistance to indigent families and individuals.
"We have also continued to reach out and encourage our 'lost' brothers and sisters who have been misled to believe in obsolete ideologies to choose the path of peace instead of violence," Abalos said.
The NTF-ELCAC, created under Executive Order 70 signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018, institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach that will be implemented to achieve inclusive and sustainable peace. (with report from Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)