CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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On-again off-again peace talks on-again

MANILA (UCAN): The on-again off-again peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of The Philippines are now on-again, despite a pledge from the president, Rodrigo Duterte, one month ago to abandon them, because he had lost interest.

However, as an official in the Chinese Foreign Affairs Bureau noted about the president of the United States of America, it really does not matter what the president says, just listen to the public service.

This time the talks were held in the Netherlands and delegates sat down at the table on April 2.

Both parties reported continuing violence after the military and the Democratic Front refused to declare a ceasefire.

In a statement, the Front said it expects intensified military operations in the coming days.

The start of the talks was delayed for a few hours after Duterte dropped a few conditions on the resumption of the negotiations.

The president said he wants a signed official document that both parties agree to a bilateral ceasefire.

He added that the Democratic Front must stop collecting what are dubbed revolutionary taxes in rural areas and should not claim any territory under its control as its own.

A spokesperson for the military, Restituto Padilla, said the Armed Forces of The Philippines did not declare a ceasefire due to the Democratic Front’s alleged extortion activities.

“They have taken advantage of the ceasefire period to undertake more extortion activities at the expense of legitimate business and peace loving citizens,” Padilla said.

The military official explained that during previous ceasefires they were able to roam around and send demand letters with ease.

The human rights group, Karapatan, countered that it is the military that is sowing terror among the Filipino people.

Karapatan submitted a report on the violations allegedly committed by government security forces in recent months to the government peace panel.

“These violations are consequences of the continuing implementation of counterinsurgency programmes, with dire consequences for civilian communities and with the clear intent of sabotaging the peace talks,” Cristina Palabay, the secretary general of the group, said.

On April 2, Duterte demanded that the Democratic Front release all their prisoners.

But despite the tensions, the resumption of the talks aimed at ending almost five decades of insurgency has received a big welcome.

“We commend both sides for overcoming the obstacles that threatened to derail the peace talks and undermine its achievements in the last six months,” another rights group, Kapayapaan, said in a statement.

It is urging both parties to focus on forging a substantial agreement on social and economic reforms.

Negotiators from both sides earlier agreed to focus the discussions this week on socio-economic reforms and a possible declaration of a bilateral ceasefire.

In the wash up, the Democratic Front agreed to a ceasefire on the condition that the government would agree to fast track negotiations on land distribution as a basic principle of genuine land reform.

This is regarded as being the heart and soul of the whole issue. It has an estimated cost of 98 billion pesos ($16.6 billion).

The next round of talks is scheduled from May 26 to June 2 on home soil in The Philippines.

 

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