MANILA, Philippines – Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said they are ready to resume peace negotiations and finish draft agreements that were stalled when talks collapsed in 2017.
Sison issued a statement in response to Duterte's pronouncement on Tuesday, April 3, expressing openness to resuming talks that have been on and off since 2017. Sison is the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the group representing communist rebels on the peace table. (READ: Duterte again opening peace talks with Reds)
"We in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) welcome the recent statement of President Rodrigo Duterte in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro expressing openness and readiness to resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations," Sison, who is in The Netherlands, said in a statement Tuesday (Wednesday, April 4 in Manila).
"We are likewise open and ready to resume the peace negotiations and expect the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels to meet as soon as possible in order to make a significant advance on the basis of the drafts prepared on October 4, 2017," he added.
Can peace talks resume immediately? Duterte issued conditions, however. How the President wants these conditions implemented and how the communist rebels are going to comply, if at all, remain unclear.
Duterte said he wants a mutual ceasefire and an end to "extortion" or the collection of revolutionary taxes. Duterte also said he wants them to stop establishing a revolutionary government.
Duterte's conditions are practically the same since he first scrapped the talks in February 2017. He allowed backchannel talks even as he attacked the rebels and even Sison in his speeches.
What is the biggest challenge? Defense and security establishments are opposed to resuming peace talks. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had taken a firm stand against it.
"I have been very vocal against any more talks with these terrorists. Nothing good will ever come of it unless we agree to all their unreasonable demands," Lorenzana said. (READ: PH seeks terrorist tag for Joma Sison, 648 others)
In the wake of attacks from Lorenzana, Sison reiterated their sincerity in the peace negotiations.
"We are sincere in striving to negotiate and forge with the GRP comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis of a just and lasting peace as well as corollary agreements to amnesty and release all political prisoners and to have coordinated unilateral ceasefires to start the enjoyment of peace," Sison said. – Rappler.com