No formal peace talks yet with NDFP, just ‘exploratory talks’ – Teodoro
MABALACAT, Pampanga, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Wednesday allayed the suspicion of some military personnel about a softening stance against communist rebels with the ongoing “exploratory talks” between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Teodoro stressed that there were no formal peace talks yet but only “exploratory talks” that seek to peacefully address the root of the communist armed conflict as stated by their Oslo Joint Communiqué.
“Naturally, there were [reactions] because the headline that came out actually is peace talks. But that is not the correct situation,” Teodoro said on the sidelines of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Leadership Summit held here when asked about the morale of the troops after the move.
“These are exploratory talks. There are no formal peace talks yet and so the people who are reacting are jumping the gun,” he added.
“What is clear here is that the armed forces will continue their law enforcement operations.”
The AFP on Wednesday also backed the exploratory talks being pursued by the government and the NDFP.
“This initiative will save precious lives,” the AFP public affairs chief, Colonel Xerxes Trinidad, said in a statement.
Trinidad also welcomed the NDFP’s “willingness … to pursue peaceful means of effecting societal reforms other than armed struggle.”
“We expect that all members of the underground movement will follow its lead,” Trinidad said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Army, which directly deals with the insurgency, also welcomed the development, saying in a statement: “We view and appreciate the exploratory talks with guarded optimism and welcome this development as it aims to address the issue of peace that shall pave the way to the development of the country.”
The Army also vowed to “neutralize” what was left of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“While there is no final peace framework, the Philippine Army would still continue its efforts to sustain the gains in Internal Security Operations by dismantling the weakened guerilla fronts and neutralizing the remaining armed groups.
Established on March 29, 1969, the NPA has been waging the longest-running Maoist insurgency in the world.
To date, the NPA is down to around 1,800 fighters, according to AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar. The figure is far from the 25,000 members it had at its height in 1987, according to military estimates.