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Duterte brings peace talks to ‘bigger table’

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Eyeing the bigger “peace table” to chart the country’s future with no rebels challenging the government, President Rodrigo Duterte wants to engage the public for support of peace negotiations with the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza revealed yesterday the President’s plan for a more proactive involvement of the public in citing the temporary postponement of the peace talks which are supposedly to start on June 28.

Both parties have also agreed to a ceasefire on armed hostilities on June 21. But Dureza said the June 21 and June 28 schedules will no longer take place.
He said the decision was relayed during Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

He said the NDF side, members of the backchannel team and the Norwegian facilitators have been informed of the decision to reset the talks for later.

“President Rodrigo Duterte instructed us last night to engage our bigger ‘peace table’ – the general public, as well as other sectors in government– as we work to negotiate peace with the communist rebels,” Dureza said.

Dureza explained the success of the peace negotiations with the NDF will depend on the broad support of the general public.
Dureza cited the ongoing public dialogues and consultations on the talks between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“The government peace panel, in cooperation with the private sector, will continue efforts to engage those who earnestly seek peace,” Dureza said.

“It’s not like we’re only going to engage the other table – which is the rebel group – and then ignore the bigger table. If it is not supported by the public, nothing will happen,” Dureza said.

“We have to go and listen to the public,” he added. The presidential peace adviser also emphasized the urgent need to ensure government will not falter in its attempt to end the five-decades old protracted war by the Maoists.

“Just, sustainable and lasting peace will happen only when our people understand and support these efforts,” he pointed out.

Before the suspension of talks, the GRP panel was already conducting consultations and town hall briefings with the youth, members of the police and the military and other organizations.

The GRP–NDF peace panels reached the fourth round of talks since the resumption of the negotiations in 2016.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday expressed full support to President Duterte’s decision.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, said while the 130,000-strong military is supportive of the government peace initiatives, it respects the Commander-in-Chief’s decision for more consultations.

“The AFP is one with the nation in earnestly yearning for a lasting peace in our land,” Arevalo said.

“It is for this reason that we support the desire of our Commander-in-Chief to afford more time for consultation with the public.” Meanwhile, the AFP shall continue to perform its mandate to protect the people, ensure the peace and the territorial integrity of the country,” Arevalo said.

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