MANILA - The government peace panel will bring up the issue on the collection of so-called revolutionary taxes by the New People's Army (NPA) during its upcoming backchannel talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), a Palace official said Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier warned that talks between his administration and the communists would not proceed if the rebels will not stop collecting revolutionary taxes, which he said is a form of extortion.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the rebels’ collection of revolutionary taxes will be taken up during the informal talks that shall come before the resumption of the fifth round of talks.
He also noted that the communist rebels’ collection of taxes goes against the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, signed by the two parties in 1998.
The fifth round of formal talks in late May were suspended after the Communist Party of the Philippines ordered the NPA to intensify its attacks and recruitment of fighters due to Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23.
Duterte placed Mindanao under martial rule after clashes erupted between government troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City. Amid ongoing offensives in the south, several attacks attributed to the NPA were reported in June.
Government had said this fueled doubts on the sincerity of the Left to pursue peace negotiations.
Duterte made his latest comments on the NDFP just two days after chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the two panels were set to hold informal talks on the third or fourth week of July before pushing through with formal discussions in August.
The contentious issue on socioeconomic reforms and the possible signing of an interim unilateral ceasefire will be high on the agenda during the fifth round of talks.
Ending the decades-long communist insurgency has been a top priority for Duterte, but talks have been on and off under the feisty leader, who has accused the communists of being "two-faced" because of their continued armed attacks against government forces despite the ongoing talks.