Duterte mum on plans for peace talks with NDF

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 February) – President Rodrigo Duterte has given no hints the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front would resume anytime soon after Thursday’s clashes in Calinan and Paquibato districts here that left two soldiers and three New People’s Army rebels dead and 17 other government troopers wounded.

During his visit Friday at the wake of the two slain soldiers at the gymnasium of the Eastern Mindanao Command, Duterte left without answering the question from a reporter about his plans on the stalled talks.

The President also visited the 11 soldiers who were recuperating at the Camp Panacan Station Hospital.

Three soldiers are confined at the Southern Philippines and Medical Center and another three at the Metro Davao Medical and Research Center.

Two soldiers were killed and 15 others were injured in a landmine allegedly exploded by the NPA in Barangay Tawantawan, Calinan district Thursday noon, the anti-terror group, Joint Task Force Haribon of the Eastmincom said in a press release issued Friday morning. (See related story)

The military said the soldiers went to Tawantawan after receiving reports that armed men burned a pineapple harvester of Del Monte Philippines.

Troops from the 3rd Infantry Battalion who pursued the NPA clashed with the rebel group along the boundary of barangays Lacson and Lamanan also in Calinan at about 4 p.m, killing two rebels, the Task Force said.

Last February 1, NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos announced they were terminating their unilateral ceasefire effective 11:59 p.m. on February 10 while President Rodrigo Duterte announced the lifting of the government’s unilateral ceasefire effective evening of February 3.

Brig Gen Gilbert I. Gapay, JTF Haribon commander told reporters that they are reassessing whether parts of the citys’ hinterlands have remained insurgency-free.

He said they placed four barangays in Paquibato and Marilog districts under their watchlist and checked if there has been a resurgence of the “NPA affectation.”

“A few years ago, it was insurgency-free. Their (NPA) problem was they took advantage of the ceasefire, while having peace talks,” he said.

But he maintained that the city has remained “peaceful” and “well on its way to progress.”

Still hopeful

In a statement early this month, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison said his group remains hopeful that the peace process will continue.

“The CPP, NPA, and NDFP remain committed to the peace process in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and further agreements. They wish to pursue with the GRP the bright prospects that started with the first round of formal talks in August 2016 and overcome the peace spoilers that run counter to the progress that has been achieved in the third round of formal talks,” he said.

He said that the third round of peace negotiations resulted in the exchange of full drafts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms by the reciprocal working committees of the GRP and the NDFP, and the complete drafts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) by the reciprocal working groups.

“I estimate that it is possible to unify these drafts within 2017. The NDFP has formally offered to GRP to co-found the Federal Republic of the Philippines on the basis of the CAPCR,” he said.

He said that Duterte must consult with his negotiating panel and the peace advocates in his cabinet to “clarify misunderstandings and solve immediately the current problems.”

“President Duterte’s announcements to consider the CPP, NPA and NDFP as terrorist organizations and to terminate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) have the effect of terminating the entire GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. I believe that President Duterte’s reaction should not have gone this far,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)