DAVAO CITY – Chief Filipino peace negotiator Jesus Dureza announced Sunday the resumption of talks with communist rebels following its collapse in February that triggered a series of deadly attacks on security forces in the country.
Dureza said the negotiations may start as early as next month after both sides finally agreed over the weekend to restart the peace talks. “I am pleased to announce that the peace negotiations…which broke down weeks ago, are now back on track again,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the peace talks after New People’s Army rebels abandoned their own truce following the government’s rejection of their demand to free more than 400 rebels languishing in jails across the country. Duterte wanted the rebels to agree on a bilateral ceasefire before releasing the prisoners, although he had freed about 2 dozen communist leaders so they can join the peace talks.
Dureza said a unilateral truce that was also earlier terminated by Duterte is deemed restored and reinstated, but he added that it take effect as soon as NPA and military forces are informed by this decision.
He said the unilateral ceasefire is a prelude to an interim bilateral ceasefire that needs further meetings between peace negotiators to determine and agree on rules, necessary guidelines and its mechanisms. And this is expected to be discussed, including the immunity guarantee of rebels engaged in the negotiations during the resumption of the talks in the Netherlands.
“The parties are expected to start discussions on the bilateral ceasefire during the planned resumption of the negotiations during the first week of April, this year. The effectively of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees that was also ordered terminated by President has been restored to enable the NDF consultants and their staff who were in jail or otherwise constrained, to physically surface and join in the peace work,” Dureza said, referring to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA.
He said Duterte closely monitored the back-channel talks between peace negotiators in Utrecht in bringing about an early breakthrough in the negotiations. And this occurred after Duterte ordered security forces to “flatten hills” in its all-out war against the rebels after a deadly ambush on March 8 that killed 4 police forensic experts in Davao del Sur’s Bansalan town.
Communist rebels have been fighting the democratic government for many decades now in an effort to put up their own Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)
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