Scrapping of peace talks worry Mindanao lawmakers
DAVAO CITY — With the termination of the negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), lawmakers expressed their appeal for a nonviolent approach in addressing the conflict in the country.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the annoucement of President Rodrigo Duterte early on Sunday terminating the peace talks should be a cause for concern, especially now that the recent talks had been making significant progress compared to earlier negotiations.
“(It’s) unfortunate, even troubling, considering the advances already made in so short a time in the substantive agenda of the talks that will hopefully address the root causes of the armed conflict,” Zarate told the Inquirer.
Duterte on Friday withdrew the government’s unilateral ceasefire following the announcement of the New People’s Army (NPA) that it would end its own ceasefire effective Feb. 10.
The NPA cited the nonrelease of political prisoners and the continuing presence of government forces in certain communities as the reasons why the revolutionary movement decided to terminate its ceasefire.
Immediately after the announcement, at least 20 hostile incidents were reported leaving several rebels, soldiers and civilians dead.
At least five government soldiers were also taken captive by the NPA in Mindanao.
Civilian communities were also displaced in Davao Oriental.
Meanwhile, the NDF had also expressed its optimism for the continuation of the talks despite their persisting concerns.
Despite the willingness of the NDF to continue talking, Duterte said that he was no longer willing to send back his negotiating panel to talk with the communists – unless he could see a compelling reason to do it.
Zarate appealed to both parties to remain on track because the peace process was not just about ending the war but most importantly about addressing the socio-economic and political causes of the conflict.
“As peace advocates, we continue our call for the continuation of the peace process for the greater interests of our people’s quest to have a just and lasting peace in our country,” Zarate said.
Earlier, North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco said that this thorny situation would call for restraint, sobriety, and respect for the negotiations.
“Like every peace loving citizen, I can only wish for sobriety and calmness,” Catamco said. “Before they make big decisions in the coming days, they should consider first the welfare of the people that they passionately stood for that will be adversely affected beyond repair if this war escalates, most especially indigenous peoples communities that most often get pressed in the middle.” /atm
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