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Reds’ land mines stall peace talks

THE GOVERNMENT is unlikely to declare another cease-fire before the peace talks with the communist rebels begin later this month, according to President Duterte.

While insisting he wanted to the peace talks to continue, Mr. Duterte said he would now “take his time” before declaring another truce to prevent a repeat of his spurned cease-fire.

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The President announced a unilateral cease-fire during his maiden State of the Nation Address on July 25, only to withdraw it five days later after communist rebels failed to reciprocate but attacked instead government troops in Davao del Norte, killing one.

“Let me just be very clear. I’m not up to something like declaring another truce or cease-fire,” he said on Tuesday morning at Hotel Elena in Davao City.

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But the government and communist peace panels, who would be meeting in Norway on Aug. 20-27 could discuss the matter, he said.

“I have to see the two panels talking about peace and maybe if they are willing, they want to address the cease-fire issue,” Mr. Duterte said.

On Monday, he had told soldiers in Samar he wanted the peace talks to continue with or without Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison, who had criticized the President after he lifted the government cease-fire.

But Mr. Duterte said the talks would continue only if the communist rebels stopped using land mines.

He once more called on the rebels to stop using land mines, saying it was a “request” and not an order. Since he was not a member of the communist party, he said he could not give them an order.

But if the talks fell through, he said he was prepared to fight another 45 years.

The government on Tuesday said it was the CPP that was “endangering” the peace talks after the NPA instructed its cadres to expand their use of land mines.

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The NPA’s order was apparently in response to President Duterte’s ultimatum to the communist rebels to stop using land mines or the peace talks would be called off.

“If both parties are aware of the parameters [of the negotiations], they are also aware of the consequences of violating those parameters,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a Malacañang press briefing.

“If the other party says go ahead with land mines, then they are the ones responsible for endangering the [peace] process,” Abella said.

On the release of political prisoners as demanded by the CPP, Abella said the government was making the necessary arrangements to allow personalities taking part in the negotiations to fly to Oslo.

Asked about the President’s statement, the peace talks would proceed even without Sison, the spokesperson said Mr. Duterte was “actually considering that the local CPP or local representatives will be able to negotiate on their own.”

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TAGS: Duterte Administration, land mines, Nation, New People's Army, news, Peace Talks
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