GRP maintains decision to withdraw from 5th Round of Talks with Reds

MANILA — The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) panel negotiating peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples’ Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) has maintained its decision not to participate in the Fifth Round of Talks set Saturday in Noordwick aan Zee, The Netherlands.

“There are no compelling reasons for us to change that decision that have been arrived at and which we announced yesterday (Saturday),” Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza said in a press briefing Sunday, 9 p.m. Dutch time (around 3 a.m. Philippine time).

He was referring to the GRP demand that it will not proceed to participate in the negotiations until “there are clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land through peace negotiations across this table shall prevail.”

Dureza however stressed that the government is “not terminating the peace process. The decision is not to participate (in the 5th round of talks)… we will see how this will impact on the whole gamut of the peace process.”

He explained that informal talks with stakeholders will still take place. “We will continue engaging with the stakeholders.”

He added that the order to withdraw from the May 27 talks came directly from President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Any decision we make here is, of course, vetted with the President,” the Presidential Peace Adviser said.

Earlier, the Presidential Peace Adviser said the GRP is withdrawing from the peace talks due to “blatant and serious challenge” being posed by the CPP-NPA-NDF to the Duterte government.

The challenges Dureza was referring to are the following:

*The noticeable upscale of incidents of offensive attacks by the NPA throughout the country;

*The seeming perception of the bigger public that these NPA operations are in open and public defiance of President Duterte who has constantly accommodated them in unprecendented ways;

*The renewed surfacing of public apprehension questioning the sincerity of the CPP-NPA-NDF in the peace talks;

*Public admission of some panel members of the CPP-NPA-NDF leaders that they have no control over their forces in the ground;

*The sudden and perceptible erosion of public support to the peace talks with strong messages received from the public to altogether stop peace negotiations;

*The clamor now to pursue instead localized peace talks;

*And the latest and recent President’s public statements that he will no longer sign agreements with the CPP-NPA-NDF if all of these will continue and not addressed.

But most disturbing of all, Dureza said, is the blatant public announcement of the CPP ordering its forces on the ground to accelerate and intensify attacks against the government in the wake of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao which was principally directed against the extremists and terrorists who are challenging government forces in Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur. Priam Nepomuceno/