AFP vows to pursue localized peace talks with NPA rebelsBy Frances Mangosing
MANILA, Philippines – The military on Monday said it will continue to seek peaceful means to end all armed conflicts despite the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ declaration that it would rather wait for the end of President Benigno Aquino III’s term before continuing peace negotiations.
Still, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it will maintain defensive posture in the face of possible increased New People’s Army attacks following the NDFP pronouncement.
“We will continue our focused military operations against [the communist rebels] because they continue to do a lot of atrocities not only to the [AFP] but to the people themselves,” Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Affairs Office chief said.
According to Zagala, the AFP’s focus is to end all conflicts through peaceful means, but “in the case of the [NPA] we don’t have any ceasefire agreement with them at the moment and they left the negotiating table.”
But the AFP, he said, will pursue the government’s new peace tactic.
Teresita Deles, the presidential peace adviser, had said the government would use a new approach in pursuing discussions with the rebels and many took that to mean that the government would seek peace talks with local chapters of the communist rebellion through “localized peace talks.”
“If we have to do it (peace talks) locally we’ll do it,” Zagala said.
But communist leaders have assailed the “localized peace talks,” stressing the NDFP has remained the only authority to conduct peace negotiation in behalf of the insurgents.
The NDFP is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA is the armed wing of the CPP that has been waging war against the government for over four decades.
Zagala said the AFP will “intensify whatever civil-military operations” that they have to do but assured that the military is willing to help those in the [NPA] who wish to surrender and reintegrate into society.
Last May, the government peace panel announced the termination of the peace talks due to the preconditions and demands of the NDFP.
In a recent interview produced by the NDFP that was posted in its website, Luis Jalandoni, the NDFP’s chief negotiator, said that “the Aquino [administration] has embarked on a vitriolic attack on the NDFP claiming that the NDFP is scuttling the peace talks by imposing preconditions.”
“If the Aquino government continues to refuse, then the NDFP continues with revolutionary struggles throughout the country and is willing to wait out the three years left of the Aquino regime,” he said.