President Rodrigo R. Duterte has committed to resuming peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army (CCP-NPA) and has expressed support for the replacement of “revolutionary tax” that the group has been collecting, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza said.
“President Duterte directed during the Cabinet meeting today (April 4) to work on the resumption of peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF with clear instructions on the importance of forging a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while talks are underway,” Mr. Dureza said in a statement.
According to Mr. Dureza, the President also “committed to provide support, if necessary, in replacement of the revolutionary tax that he asked be stopped.”
In a separate statement, Mr. Dureza argued that the President’s offer of support for the revolutionary group is not tantamount to condoning extortion.
“Not condoning as it must be stopped…Those who wish to get support may be considered. Details, of course, will be discussed if acceptable to both sides,” he added.
As for the target date of the resumption of talks, Mr. Dureza said: “[We] will see when that ‘enabling environment’ becomes apparent.
In his statement on Tuesday, April 3, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said his party is “sincere” in its desire to return to the peace table with the government.
For her part, Senator Loren B. Legarda said she “supports the resumption of the peace talks, because stalling the negotiations could only lead to more deaths and suffering and neither the government nor the NDFP will win.”
“As someone who has been involved in facilitating releases of captives by the New People’s Army (NPA) when I was a neophyte senator, I have seen the sincerity of all sides to this conflict and have witnessed the intense desire for peace,” the senator added.
Ms. Legarda explained that “many of the items in the NDFP’s socio-economic reform agenda can already be addressed through existing laws and programs. In fact, the 2018 national budget has provided funding for free public tertiary education and additional funding for our state universities and colleges, free health care services in government hospitals, free irrigation services for small farmers, more budget for social welfare programs, and increased funding to support rural livelihoods and micro, small and medium enterprises. Our laws on environmental protection are already in place and, as author of most of these laws, I am glad that we are gradually seeing stricter enforcement.”
“The Philippine Government and the NDFP should resume peace talks to come up with agreements that are acceptable to both parties and beneficial to the Filipino people. Our people have a huge stake in the peace negotiations, the success of which is a step towards a brighter future for generations to come,” Ms. Legarda also said. — Arjay L. Balinbin