MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte instructed his cabinet Wednesday to work on the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Duterte, during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, told his secretaries to work on the resumption of peace talks with the communist movement “with clear instructions on the importance of forging a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while talks are underway.”
“Let’s give this another last chance,” Dureza quoted Duterte as saying.
The President's directive followed his statement on Tuesday that he would resume the talks if the rebels stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes from businesses and burning equipment of construction firms.
Dureza said Duterte is willing to offer support to the communist rebels so they won’t have to extort money from businesses.
Earlier, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison, Duterte’s former professor, welcomed the President’s expression of openness to the resumption of talks on Tuesday after changing positions on the matter.
“We are likewise open and ready to resume the peace negotiations and expect the GRP (Philippine government) and NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) negotiating panels to meet as soon as possible in order to make a significant advance on the basis of the drafts prepared on October 4, 2017,” Sison said in a statement.
“We are sincere in striving to negotiate and forge with the GRP comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis of a just and lasting peace as well as corollary agreements to amnesty and release all political prisoners and to have coordinated unilateral ceasefires to start the enjoyment of peace.”
The peace talks collapsed in November last year after Duterte cited the communist rebels’ continued attacks against state troops despite ongoing negotiations.
The President then moved to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.
NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said this move is a hindrance to the possible resumption of peace talks, but added that this may be dealt with in backchannel discussions.