Indian Catholic News

Philippines resumes peace talks with communist rebels

Both sides warn of continued violence in absence of bilateral ceasefire.

 
Manila: 

Formal peace negotiations between the Philippine government and communist rebels resumed in The Netherlands April 2, more than a month after President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the talks.

Both parties, however, warned of continuing violence after the military and the rebels refused to declare a ceasefire.

In a statement, the rebels said they expect intensified military operations in the coming days.

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

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

He also said the rebels should stop collecting "revolutionary tax" in rural areas and should not claim any territory under their control.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the military did not declare a ceasefire due to the rebels' alleged "extortion activities."

"The [rebels] have taken advantage of the ceasefire period to undertake more extortion activities at the expense of legitimate business and peace loving citizens," said Padilla.

The military official said that during previous ceasefires the rebels were able to roam around and send demand letters.

Human rights group Karapatan, however, said the military are the ones "sowing terror among the Filipino people."

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

"These violations are consequences of the continuing implementation of counterinsurgency programs, with dire consequences on civilian communities and with the clear intent of sabotaging the peace talks," said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan's secretary general.

In a speech on April 2, Duterte demanded that the rebels release all their captives.

Peace advocates in Manila welcomed the resumption of the talks aimed at ending almost five decades of insurgency.

The conflict, which has raged since 1968, has killed at least 40,000 people.

"We commend both sides for overcoming the obstacles that threatened to derail the peace talks and undermine its achievements in the last six months," read a statement from the group Kapayapaan.

The group urged on 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.

"It is our hope that both sides look towards the attainment of a just peace, one that will benefit the Filipino people, and bring our country towards true progress," read the group's statement.

Source: UCAN

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