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Palace: Door for peace talks with Reds remains open


By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Despite the earlier declaration of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Joma Sison, the Duterte administration remains open to a possible resumption of the peace talks with the communist group.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (via PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (via PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Duterte administration is keeping its doors open to a possible resumption of the peace talks with the communist group.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement almost a week after Sison said that the Reds would no longer talk peace with the government under the leadership of President Duterte, and would instead support efforts to oust him.

In a Facebook post, Roque said that the government is willing to hold peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) as long as they adhere to the conditions earlier laid down by the President.

The government will demand that peace talks with communist rebels shift from Europe to the Philippines and the insurgents are encamped in designated areas during the negotiations.

“The door for peace talks remains open provided that PRRD’s conditions are met: [it will be held] in [the] country, no collection of revolutionary tax, no hostilities, NPA fighters to remain encamped, and no coalition government,”Roque posted Wednesday night.

He added that localized peace talks may be pursued by local government units provided that they do not concede any aspect of governance.

The Palace official also said that localized peace talks should be pursuant to guidelines to be agreed upon by the Cabinet cluster on security.

Roque was posting live social media updates from the ongoing joint command conference with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Wednesday evening.

In his Palace press briefing Thursday, Roque said that President Duterte still has not changed his mind about pursuing peace in the country.

“So patuloy pa rinangpaghangadngkapayapaanngatingPresidente, pero hindi naman po pwede na sila pa ang magdidikta kung paano tayo makakarating sa kapayapaan (The President still dreams of peace, but we cannot allow the communist group to dictate to us how we should get there),” he said.

Roque also said that during the joint command conference, they were briefed on the different agreements that the government has entered into with the communist group. He said that even after the said briefing, Duterte stood by his decision to have the peace negotiations in the country.

Localized peace talks

Roque is not optimistic that Sison’s statement will influence the rebels on the ground, after the CPP founder said that the communist group will not agree that the peace talks will be held in the Philippines.

According to the Palace official, Sison’s pronouncements will not affect the government’s pursuit for localized peace talks.

“Tutuloy tayo sa localized peace talks. Matitignan natin kung ang tao na para ng 30 anyos na atang wala sa Pilipinas ay may impluwensya pa sa (We will proceed with the localized peace talks. We’ll see if someone who has been out of the Philippines for I think 30 years will still have influence on the) troops on the ground,” Roque said.

According to Roque, the Cabinet cluster on security will meet on July 12 to finalize the guidelines for the localized peace talks.

Norway’s participation

Roque said Norway can still participate in the talks as third-party facilitator.

“Well, hindi ko po alam kung ano magiging partisipasyon nila. But sinabi ko na po ‘yan noong una kong (I don’t know what will their participation be but as I said in an earlier) press briefing and I was very clear – all parties who have been involved can continue to help in whatever way they want to help. They’re welcome to,”Roque said.

The Palace official also said that Duterte did not dispute the idea that Norwegians can still be the third-party facilitator during the peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF.

“Let’s just say that the President did not dispute that the Norwegians can be third party facilitator. But there was no outright statement that they will continue to be third party facilitator,” Roque said.

“Anyone can help in the process that they want. If the Norwegians can help in localized peace talks, they’re more than welcome to do so… Iba naman po ang venue sakanila ng tulong (The venue is a different issue from their help), which we continue to appreciate,” he added.

In a press briefing earlier this week, Roque blamed Sison for the failed peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.

“Hindi po kasalanan ng gobyerno na hindi natuloy ang peace talks. Si Joma Sison po ang umayaw.Tayo po’y mga Pilipino, ang sinasabi po ng Presidente, dito tayo mag-usap ng kapayapaan (It is not the government’s fault that the peace talks did not push through. Sison was the one who backed out. We are Filipinos, the President said we should talk peace here),” he said. (With reports from Francis T. Wakefield and The Associated Press)

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