Peace panel starts public consultation
This came as President Duterte again said on Tuesday that the government was ready to crush the communist rebels following the cancellation of peace talks with them.
AP/Alessandra Tarantino/File
Peace panel starts public consultation
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - June 28, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Within the next two weeks, the government is set to start public consultations on the draft peace agreement with communist rebels.

This came as President Duterte again said on Tuesday that the government was ready to crush the communist rebels following the cancellation of peace talks with them.

In another development, three soldiers were wounded in a roadside bombing launched by the New People’s Army in Samar while another trooper was injured in last Tuesday’s fighting between government forces and NPA guerrillas in Ormoc, Leyte, the Army reported yesterday.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who also serves as the administration’s chief peace negotiator, said the government  will undertake a three-month consultation with the public and other stakeholders.

“We will go to Mindanao. Our focus is on Mindanao because that is their stronghold. But we will also go to the Visayas and Luzon,” Bello said in Filipino over radio station dzMM.

Bello said they will also meet with members of Congress, the Supreme Court and local government units regarding the agreement.

According to Bello, the peace panel will gather inputs from all stakeholders before going back to the negotiating table with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Bello said the only remaining contentious issue between the government and the peace panel is the provision on national industrialization.

Contrary to the Constitution, which allows foreigners to own 40 percent of local firms, Bello said the communist party wants all industries to be entirely Filipino-owned.

The government earlier suspended peace negotiations with the NDF in preparation for the review of all deals between the two parties, including a proposed interim peace agreement (IPA).

President Duterte also wants the peace talks to be held in the country and no longer in Norway, which has been serving as third party facilitator for the talks.

Bello said the government is holding a nationwide consultation to ensure that the peace agreement will get the approval of both houses of Congress and the SC.

“We don’t want that the final agreement we’ll sign will again be scuttled by a ruling of the Supreme Court as unconstitutional or illegal,” Bello said in a previous interview with The STAR.

Certain provisions of the IPA like on agrarian reform and national industrialization, Bello said, may require legislation or constitutional amendments.

Bello said the government and NDF panels were supposed to sign at the end of the month an IPA that includes provisions on coordinated unilateral ceasefire and Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reform.

Cessation of hostilities

Bello also disclosed the NDF signed on June 8 a stand down agreement with the government because it trusted the sincerity of Duterte.

Bello said the stand down deal, which was signed in the Netherlands, provides for a temporary cessation of hostilities.

He said the deal entails that the two sides should not commit offensive action or operation against combatants and civilians.

Bello cited that communist rebels refused, during previous administrations, to even discuss a cessation of hostilities, fearing this would weaken their force.

Inconsistent?

As Bello announced cessation of hostilities, however, the Army reported two NPA attacks against its troopers on Tuesday.

1Lt. Allan Jay Buerano, spokesman for the Army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion based in Lope de Vega, Northern Samar, identified the wounded soldiers as Pfc. Jeremy Rizal, Pfc. Marvin Rivera and Pfc. Noriel Guarte, all of the battalion’s Bravo Company. – With Jaime Laude, Jose Rodel Clapano

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