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Negotiations with NDF back on track — Dureza

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By Antonio Colina IV

DAVAO CITY – The peace negotiations between government (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines are back on track with Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (PAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza saying they will resume the stalled fifth round of talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) sooner than the 60-day timeline set by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Presidential Adviser on Peace Adviser Sec. Jesus Dureza (Keith Bacongco / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Adviser on Peace Adviser Sec. Jesus Dureza
(Keith Bacongco / MANILA BULLETIN)

“I think we are back on track,” Dureza said.

The fifth round of GRP-NDFP peace talks was aborted for the second time just two days before it would resume on November 25 to 27, 2017, with Proclamation 360 of President Rodrigo R. Duterte “for lack of sincerity,” following an NPA ambush on November 9 that killed a four-month-old Walysha Manchorao, and similar incidents.

The President subsequently signed Proclamation 374, designating the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army, as terrorist organizations.

Dureza acknowledged that dealing with communist insurgents militarily cannot help attain sustainable peace.

“You cannot kill all of them and you cannot kill an idea, you cannot kill a revolutionary idea. They will still carry on even if you eliminate some of the ideologues. You have to address the root cause of why they are rebelling government,” he said.

Dureza said GRP found difficulty in dealing with the communists because of differences in beliefs, including their refusal to honor the 1987 Philippines Constitution while the GRP must strictly follow its provisions, but he added the peace talks are about finding a convergence point of the “two very divergent positions” and close the gap between the two parties.

He said the NPA members must stop the extortion activities and the attacks against government and civilian properties, as the President expressed interest to sign agreements with NDFP despite the objection of the military which “wanted to confront them physically.”

“He (Duterte) wants to provide to them all of those favorable accommodation, but then he said, ‘Why are they still attacking our people? Why are they still burning equipment? Why are they still extorting?’ He said, ‘I will continue talking to you but stop first actions that will make you traitors in the eyes of the public,’”Dureza added.

Both parties will still have to thresh out the three remaining Comprehensive Agreements on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), dubbed as the “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations, Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR), and End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

The GRP and NDFP negotiating peace panels had already agreed on three common drafts on general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); coordinated unilateral ceasefires, and part I of ARRD and part II of NIED.

Respect Mayor Sara’s decision

Dureza said he respects the statement of Mayor Sara Duterte who objected to the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks and urged her father to reconsider his pronouncement.

“I respect the statement of Mayor Sara because she knows why she has to say it but in this democracy, everyone is entitled to his opinion. She has a task to do as a mayor to protect the citizenry of Davao,” he added.

He said they welcome those statements because they “provide a more vigilant environment as we continue with the negotiations.”

Also, Duterte condemned the NPA for burning 10 heavy construction equipment worth P65 million in a series of attacks in Calinan, Buhangin, and Paquibato Districts, this city, on March 31 and April 1.

Carpio said the burning delayed the construction of roads and hampered the development of the communities in the affected areas.

“While I trust the wisdom of the President and his intention to end the insurgency problem peacefully, I believe pursuing peace talks with the NDFP-CPP-NPA is counterproductive and plainly useless,” she said in a statement issued last Friday.

Faster and quicker

Dureza said there would be no shortcuts to “this work for peace” but he believes there will be a “faster and quicker pace in the outcomes” in the peace negotiation under the Duterte roadmap seeking to deal with insurgency problem through the peace negotiation and, at the same time, bringing development to the conflict-affected communities.

The presidential adviser said before the cancellation of the fifth round, both parties agreed to create a body, chaired by NDFP consultant Luis Jalandoni, who will be tasked to implement development projects in areas noted for communist insurgencies, copying the template of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in providing aid to conflict-affected communities through the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).

The BDA “determines, leads and manages relief, rehabilitation, and development projects in the conflict-affected areas and to implement projects jointly with the Philippine government.”

Dureza, who emphasized the need to extend programs to communities to allow the people to benefit from the dividends of peace, said they would take up again the mechanism on how both parties can collaborate in providing socio-development program.

“The nexus should be development and peace. Peace cannot be sustained if there is no progress or development in the lives of people, and vice versa,” he said. “Now, we are back hoping to pick up the pieces again. This will be the last. We’ll have to already quickly come up with agreement.”

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