To ensure that the peace talks with communist rebels will be smooth and have more chance of success, President Rodrigo Duterte said the government panel and the National Democratic Front (NDF) should come up with parameters that will be observed when negotiations resume next month.
In his speech during the 1st General Assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippine, the President said peace restoration and reinstatement of the ceasefire must have clear parameters since there was no framework in the past.
“I want a ceasefire that is reduced in writing and that parameters (are) clearly shown, where are we going and what do we do if something goes wrong. We have to pray for everything. It’s still vague until now. I cannot expound any further. But I have some ‘must do’ so we can achieve peace,” the President said.
“We have a problem in Mindanao. I want everybody to know what is really happening, or what happened, is not just a question of rebellion, (it’s) deeper than that,” he added.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte urged the peace panels of the government and the NDF to have “clear parameters” for the restoration of peace talks and their respective unilateral ceasefire.
In a press conference, Abella said Duterte gave the instruction during the meeting of the National Security Council’s executive committee at Malacañang on Monday night.
“On the peace process, the President acknowledged the joint statement of the GPH [Government of the Philippines] and NDF peace panels on the intent to resume formal peace talks,” Abella said. “To ensure that genuine peace talks are realized, the President asked both panels to agree on clear parameters for ceasefire and the talks,” he added.
The government and NDF representatives on Saturday agreed to resume formal peace talks following the successful back-channel talks in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The fourth round of talks will be held on the first week of April.
In a press conference on Monday, Duterte justified the resumption of stalled peace negotiations to stop “cannibalism.”
“I just gave my orders to start talking. There is no concrete proposal, there’s not even a list of what should be taken up,” the President said.
“As a Filipino, I’m still interested in preventing the slaughter of a Filipino by a Filipino,” he added. “Communism is cannibalism. You devour your fellow Filipino with your ideology.”
The President withdrew a unilateral ceasefire declaration and scrapped the peace talks last month dismayed by rebel attacks and demands for the release of all detained rebels.
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) commended the President for the success of the informal talks that paved the way for the resumption of the peace negotiations.
“Despite the serious challenges that have beset the negotiations, President Duterte has continually shown his determination in seeing the peace talks through to its successful conclusion,” the PCEC said in a statement issued by Bishop Noel A. Pantoja.
“Along with fellow peace advocates in our country, we rejoiced upon learning of the significant gains of the third round of formal talks that was held in Rome this past January. We applaud the strengthening of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the advances made toward realizing the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms and the Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR). No one could have been more jubilant than our fellow Filipinos in the countryside who have long suffered as a result of this conflict. However, with the termination of the peace talks in February, we again felt the elusiveness of peace in our time,” it said.
“For this reason, the March 11 Utrecht Joint Statement is a most welcome development. War may seem to hold the promise of victory, but it produces only victims and a cycle of violence and poverty that will lead to the utter emaciation of our land. Thus, we fully support the forging of an interim bilateral ceasefire. It is a crucial confidence building measure that will demonstrate concretely the significant gains of the peace talks. We support ensuring the safety and participation of the 19 NDFP consultants in accordance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). We applaud the resumption of the fourth and fifth round of the formal peace talks that are scheduled to take place in April and June 2017, respectively, the group said.