Dureza: Peace talks to go on despite clashes but we need a ceasefire
DAVAO CITY – The President’s peace adviser has said he is confident that the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines will continue despite the recent attacks of communist guerrillas in North Cotabato and Abra.
The attacks, including an ambush in a police convoy in Abra and the burning of a passenger bus in Makilala town, happened a day after the Philippine government and the NDFP agreed to resume the formal talks in a backchannel meeting in The Netherlands.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said that while a joint statement was signed stating that both parties would reinstate their unilateral ceasefire declarations, they would need time to update combat forces on the ground.
“The restoration of unilateral ceasefire that has been announced is NOT yet effective as of today as there is still a need to allow the government and the communist leaders to inform their respective ground forces accordingly,” Dureza said in a statement.
Unlike the military and police, the command system of the NPA is more complex, according to Dureza.
“Except for the government forces where there is a tight command and control structure in place and directives from higher headquarters are downloaded expeditiously, the same is NOT true with the NPAs, for obvious reasons,” Dureza explained.
The government chief negotiator shared that the reinstatement of the indefinite unilateral ceasefire declarations would happen before the scheduled fourth round of talks in the first week of April.
The recent encounters were not surprising and highlighted the need for an early effectivity of the ceasefire, Dureza said.
Labor Secretary and government peace panel head Silvestre Bello III said he already communicated with the NDFP leadership and they committed to look into it.
“In the meantime, we urge combatants to observe restraint,” Bello said.
A bilateral ceasefire agreement would be discussed and signed by the Philippine government and the NDFP in the next meetings. This would replace the unilateral ceasefire declarations and would establish more stable mechanisms including monitoring and prevention of tensions that might trigger hostilities.
“Indeed, such incidents affect the over-all sentiments of peace-loving citizens who may even raise issues of good faith and may lead to questions as to whether or not rebel groups we are engaging in the peace tables are sincere or have control over their ground forces,” Dureza said.
At this crucial stage of the conflict and the peace process, the government underscored the need for support from the different stakeholders in the country.
“Public acceptance (or the lack of it) on the on- going peace process is critical, given the indispensable need of over-all stakeholders’ support to ensure success of our peace efforts,” Dureza said.
For the next round of talks, it is expected that the government and the communists would move closer in completing the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, which they believe would address the root causes of the conflict.
Significant progress is also expected in the discussions for the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms with the Communist Party of the Philippines publicly expressing its willingness to help in the creation of a federal republic, which was one of the campaign promises of President Duterte. SFM