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Dureza: NPA attack on Iloilo police station impacts peace talks

Police patrol the Maasin police station after a raid by NPA rebels. File photo
MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said recent New People's Army attacks are disheartening in light of statements from both sides to refrain from offensives in Mindanao.
 
"Since the latest statements of the National Democratic Front and the government to mutually refrain from taking offensive operations against each other cover only Mindanao, and since there is yet no mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement in place nationwide, the NPA attack in Maasin, Iloilo and elsewhere must be dealt with accordingly and decisively by the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and the [Philippine National Police] with the cooperation of civilian agencies and the affected communities," he said in a statement.
 
Julio Montana, spokesperson for NPA-Panay (Coronacion Chiva “Waling-Waling” Command), in a statement on Sunday, acknowledged that the NPA raided a police station in Maasin, Iloilo on Sunday morning. He said rebels managed to "confiscate" 11 M16 rifles, four pistols, bullets and VHF radios with no shots fired.
 
"Ang istasyon ng Maasin PNP ay dinis-armahan ng NPA dahil matagal nang nangingikil ang mga tauhan nito sa mga maliliit na vendors sa sentro ng bayan, samantalang nagpapabaya lamang sa paglaganap ng ilegal na droga at sugal," Montano said, adding the raid was also in response to what it said was the government's "all-out war" policy against communist rebels.
 
Authorities said the rebels also took personal items and cash from Maasin police, but the NPA has disputed this claim.
 
News of the attack came as peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP or NDF), announced a halt to offensives in Mindanao so security forces can focus on operations against the Maute, Abu Sayyaf and other local terror groups.
 
The halt on operations is also meant to pave the way for the resumption of formal talks, which NDFP political adviser Jose Ma. Sison has said could start in two months.
 
"It is disheartening to note that such attacks provide a negative impact in our mutual commitment with the NDF to provide that enabling environment conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations with them," Dureza said.
 
Last Saturday, the military killed three NPA members in Davao Oriental and two others in Compostela Valley.
 
Dureza said the attacks will affect peace negotiations and "illustrates the tragedy of the insurgency."
 
He added that "[h]opefully, the attack is just part of the birthpains of the agreement to stop offensive military actions, even if it covers only Mindanao as of now. It is an argument for a nationwide ceasefire."
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