Peace talks with reds ‘still best option’ for gov’t
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Philippines News Agency) —Resuming talks with the communist insurgents remains the best option for the Duterte government if it wants to achieve lasting peace in the country, a religious leader said.
Bishop Felixberto Calang, an official of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and co-convenor of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), noted that negotiators from both the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) have already made progress during the several rounds of peace negotiations in Europe early this year.
Bishop Calang, who sat as observer to the rounds of negotiations in Italy and Netherlands, described how both panels adopted a two-pronged approach in the talks that was “working.”
“While the chief negotiators discuss the main issues, another group would sit down and talk about concerns that were brought by both parties at the reciprocal committee level,” the IFI bishop said on Thursday.
This approach, he added, was helpful in ironing out any kinks in the negotiations.
However, President Rodrigo Duterte stressed that the hindrance for the continuation of the talks was more fundamental than the technical workings of both panels.
In particular, President Duterte has expressed displeasure at the continued attacks conducted by the New People’s Army (NPA)—NDF’s armed component.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement by the government that it was cancelling the talks, Duterte branded the NPA as a terrorist organization.
Nonetheless, Calang maintained that the dialogue between the two panels have produced promising results as “issues were properly dealt with.”
Pursuing the negotiations was better than not talking at all, the bishop said, reiterating that going back to the negotiation table remains “the best way to finally end” the decades-long conflict waged by the Maoist rebels.
Meanwhile, Datu Jomorito Goaynon, regional chairperson of the lumad (indigenous people) group Kalumbay, echoed Calang’s call for the resumption of the peace talks.
Goaynon said if the government abandons the peace negotiations, it is likely that Duterte will declare an all-out war against the NPA and this would impact the lives of the tribal minorities living the countryside.
“It is a cause for concern if there is a failure in the peace talks. That’s why we are asking Pres. Duterte to continue the peace talks with the NDF,” Goaynon said. (PNA/Jigger J. Jerusalem)