MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may be convinced to revive peace talks with communists if a bilateral ceasefire agreement will prohibit the New People’s Army (NPA) from exacting revolutionary tax, the Palace said.
In a statement sent to media on Monday, February 20, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella listed the provisions of a possible bilateral ceasefire agreement that could convince Duterte to go back to the negotiating table.
“While it is understandable that suspicions linger about the motives of the parties on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum, some ‘compelling reasons’ need to be provided for talks to resume,” said Abella.
A “compelling reason” that could persuade Duterte is a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the following features:
- Ceasing of the so-called”revolutionary tax” also known as “extortion”
- Ceasing the ambushes on military personnel
- Ceasing burning of property
- Ceasing provocative and hostile actions
Abella said that if the National Democratic Front (NDF), the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), allows the inclusion of these features in the agreement, it “could put at ease, to some extent, the apprehension of the military and the administration.”
The list of conditions released by Malacañang are similar to conditions mentioned by Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Eduardo Año and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Ball in NDF’s court
Duterte’s spokesman said the ball is in the NDF’s court.
“[President Duterte] has already taken the first steps forward. We wait for NDF to respond,” said Abella.
The day before the Palace released its statement, the CPP emphasized it was still committed to forging a bilateral ceasefire agreement. As a “positive gesture,” it also said it would release 6 prisoners of war.
Duterte had long asked for a bilateral ceasefire agreement that would put in place common rules for the military and the NPA.
But the NDF demanded the release of around 400 political prisoners before agreeing to sign such a deal. In response, Duterte said he would release some political prisoners immediately after the ceasefire agreement is signed.
Before the sticky issue could be resolved, however, the NPA had announced it was lifting its unilateral ceasefire, claiming the military had violated its ceasefire.
The President expressed disillusionment with the peace process, saying he doubts peace with the Left would ever be attained in his administration.
But he had said he might be persuaded to revive the peace talks if there was a “compelling reason” to do so. – Rappler.com