THE situation has changed in the on-again, off-again peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF).
In the past, the talks fell through because of the conditions set by the communist side for negotiations to proceed.
At the last reckoning, the talks were abandoned because of the Left’s insistence that government release first some 400 communist rebels in custody.
This was subsequently followed by the decision of the NPA to junk its unilateral ceasefire with the armed forces starting February 10.
To this, and following NPA attacks on AFP patrols and units, President Duterte responded by cancelling peace negotiations that were scheduled to take place on February 22 to 25 in the Netherlands.
Thus, the talks were brought to a standstill.
As third parties and mediators have worked to revive the negotiations, the Philippine government has perceptibly modified its once passive stance in the talks.
Now, government is setting conditions for the resumption of the negotiations. Through presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, Malacañang has announced four conditions for the communist side to consider, namely:
1) A stop to the collection of revolutionary taxes and extortion activities by the insurgents;
2) A stop to ambushes of government troops by the NPA;
3) A stop to the burning of property by the NPA; and
4) A stop to provocative and hostile actions by communist insurgents.
This new, tough-minded position has been received with great interest across the entire country. It will enjoy wide public support, because local communities and many private businesses have long been complaining about the extortion activities perpetrated by communist insurgents, which have done much damage to economic activities. It is derogation of Philippine sovereignty for certain areas of the country to be subjected to revolutionary taxation. We want to state here our position that the peace negotiations should be earnestly revived and resumed by both sides. We believe further that each side should be prepared to adjust its position for the sake of reaching an agreement and forging a just and lasting peace.
It is evident that talks have stalled because of mutual suspicions of both sides, and the fears of each that it will be disadvantaged by being conciliatory.
We believe the impasse can be broken if both sides will approach the talks with a new perspective, and minus the old, set positions that proved unbridgeable.
Both sides should be wiser from the difficulties and misunderstandings that have occurred. The important thing now is for both sides to keep talking, and work hard to still the guns. It may be a cliché, but talk truly is a bridge.