The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) rejected the Philippine government’s terms for “localized” peace talks, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
Among Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s demands was that the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), stop collecting what the NPA calls a “revolutionary tax” from companies and that the CPP drop its demands to be part of a coalition government.
“In the meantime, localized peace arrangements may be pursued by the local government units with the insurgents in their respective areas of responsibility,” Philippine Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said on Thursday.
The CPP said that the demand to hold talks in the Philippines was “unacceptable,”according to Philippine news site Rappler. The CPP has long held that a foreign “venture” was needed for peace talks, as they feared holding talks in the Philippines would subject the CPP and their leaders to harassment and surveillance from the Philippine government.
“He knows fully well that the demand to hold talks in the Philippines is unacceptable and unworkable for the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), unless he thinks the NDFP will be negotiating only to surrender the Filipino people’s aspirations and give up all its revolutionary principles,” the CPP said in a statement.
The Netherlands-based CPP leader Jose Maria Sison said that talks can resume if the Philippine government honored past agreements, though he had declared Duterte “killed” any chance of peace talks, according to The Associated Press. In addition, the rebels’ chief negotiator, Fidel Agcoili, said that fighting would continue. (RELATED: Duterte Bails On The International Criminal Court After They Started Looking Into His Bloody Drug War)
Talks had been going on in the Netherlands, where Sison, the founder of the CPP, is based. However, the Philippine government halted the talks in late June, due to the military’s request for a three-month postponement. Norway had been acting as a mediator between the two groups and Duterte signaled his willingness to keep them as one if talks resumed.
“The president also expressed his wish that Norway continues as facilitator in the event peace talks are resumed,” Duerza said to Rappler.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said on Thursday that Sison was irrelevant. Duterte had questioned on June 28 whether any Filipino rebel groups still followed his word.
“Joma Sison can say anything he wants, that’s his opinion. He’s living 10,000 miles away, so I don’t see how he can be relevant,” Roque said, according to ABS-CBN News.
The NPA has been waging a Marxist insurgency since 1969, a conflict that has claimed the lives of 40,000 people.
“If they’re not willing to talk to me, that’s fine. I have no problem so we continue with the war. Anyway, we’ve been there for 50 years,” Duterte told reporters on June 28, after Sison had first rejected terms for peace talks.
The CPP said that Duterte was planning on declaring martial law across the country, which Roque rejected. Mindanao is the only part of the Philippines that is under martial law, which was proclaimed in May 2017 due to clashes in the city of Marawi between government forces and Islamic State linked militants.
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