Gov’t tackles NPA extortion activities in back-channel talks with Reds – OPAPP

MANILA-- The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Tuesday said the government will take up the extortion activities by the New People's Army (NPA) as part of the informal talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) prior to the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

In a Palace briefing, OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza said that the fifth round of talks between the government and the National Democratic Front have been suspended because according to President Rodrigo Duterte, the so-called enabling environment conducive to peace negotiations have not been met.

The fifth round of talks between the government and the NDF was cancelled following continued nationwide attacks by the New People's Army (NPA) against state forces.

The President also mentioned in an earlier speech that he won't allow the resumption of peace negotiations with communist rebels unless the NPA stop their extortion activities.

Whatever the President says, we take guidance. Kung 'yun ang sinabi niya, we take guidance from that. That is the reason why probably, I'm not going to preempt the back channel, that would be one item that our backchannelers will take up with them, Dureza said.

So right now, efforts are ongoing on a back channel in order to possibly come up with that enabling environment that would make it for us, in the Philippine side, ready to meet again on the fifth round of talks, he added.

He pointed out that under the CARHRIHL -- Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law signed in 1998 -- that the CPP-NPA and the Government of the Philippines committed to, among the provisions there is not to subject civilians and their properties to attack.

Very clear. Both sides have committed to that in an old agreement signed as early as 1998. So these are matters that we'll take up with them hopefully in the backchannel that may happen very soon, Dureza said.

In the meantime, the Presidential Peace Adviser said that no dates have yet been set for when the fifth round of talks will resume, only that backchannel talks will happen very soon at an undetermined date and undetermined venue.

But please know that there is really an ongoing effort, Dureza said.

Last week, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the government's chief peace negotiator, said that peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front will resume sometime in August.

The fifth round of talks that has been deferred will probably be realized second or third week of August, Bello aid during a Palace briefing.

Bello said that to produce a more favorable result, an informal meeting between the two panels has been set in the third or last week of July that will be held somewhere in Asia.

The government's chief peace negotiator added that earlier despite setbacks, he remains optimistic that peace can be forged between the government and the communist rebels.

In the process, there will be humps and bumps but we will stay in the course of the process because there is no alternative. This is the best legacy that our President can give to our country: an enduring and lasting peace for everyone, Bello said.

Source: Philippine News Agency