COMMUNIST rebels blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for yet another impasse on the peace talks with the government.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the communist group’s political wing, said that Duterte “has obstructed the progress of the talks” for the third time in just six months.
“President Duterte bears full responsibility for the failure of the talks on social and economic reforms because of his sudden turn-around and heightened hostility to the revolutionary forces and the people,” the NDFP said in a statement.
The Philippine government announced on Wednesday that it was canceling all planned peace talks with the rebels following Duterte’s order.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza cited as reasons for cancelling talks the series of violent incidents by the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the communist group.
“President Duterte has taken unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace. However, the Communist Party and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity,” Dureza said in a statement.
The NDFP said it regretted the President’s decision, which came at a time “when unprecedented advances have already been achieved in forging agreements on urgently needed socio-economic reforms to alleviate mass poverty and resolve the roots of the armed conflict.”
Prior to the suspension of talks, the NDFP said a series of bilateral technical meetings resulted in draft documents on agrarian reform and rural development, and on national industrialization and economic development, among others, seen to benefit millions of Filipinos.
For instance, the NDFP cited “agrarian reform beneficiaries who have not yet been able to occupy the land awarded to them will be installed immediately, including those in contested lands and agricultural estates.”
“The scope and coverage of agrarian reform will be expanded to include plantations and large-scale commercial farms covered by leasehold, joint venture, non-land transfer schemes like stock distribution option, and other such arrangements. There are also measures to prohibit and eliminate exploitative lending and trading practices,” it said.
The NDFP said both parties also agreed on the need for national industrialization and for planning to develop Filipino industrial capacity.
“Measures will be taken to ensure that foreign investments cease being one-sided and contribute to developing the national economy. Domestic industrialists and smaller enterprises will be protected and supported. The importance of nationalizing public utilities was affirmed,” the NDFP said.
It added that the two parties also agreed to identify key industries and priority industrial projects to jump-start industrialization.
“The NDFP… regrets the unilateral cancellation of talks on such vital social and economic reforms which, if implemented, would have immediately benefited tens of millions of oppressed and exploited Filipinos,” the group said.
“The NDFP at the same time recognizes that the people’s continued daily struggles on these issues are unabated and, if anything, are made more urgent and will gain greater momentum,” it added.
Duterte has said he was no longer inclined to resume peace talks with the communist rebels whom he branded as “terrorists” and “criminals.”
The President halted talks with the rebels in July following a series of attacks by the communist group’s armed wing, the New People’s Army, against government forces. He said he would not resume the talks unless the rebels stopped their extortion activities.
The fifth round of talks brokered by Norway was suspended on May 27 after the government panel withdrew from the negotiating table in response to the communist group’s order to guerrillas to intensify attacks against security forces.