Philippine – The government has taken a hard-line stance towards the National Democratic Front (NDF), a communist group while pressing to continue peace negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim separatist group.
The government has insisted on a mutual ceasefire before the long-dormant peace talks continues with the communist group. “As far as we know the stance of government remains the same, which is no negotiations unless there is a ceasefire (on hostilities),” said Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.
The government doubted the group’s sincerity in resuming peace talk as NDF chairman has just forged an agreement with an opposition senator to topple the Arroyo’s administration. “Action speaks louder than words. And by their actions, they don’t seem to be serious in pursuing a real, meaningful negotiation,” said Bunye. He added that “they must prove it by ending attacks on military and police detachments in remote areas and infrastructures like cell sites and stop planting landmines and conducting ambuscades on uniformed troops.”
President Arroyo had declared an all-out war last month and ordered the army and the police forces to end a “revolutionary taxation” by dismantling the rebel’s network in rural areas. The “taxation” (pegged at 2 per cent of gross profit) is levied on companies by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and those who do not pay are usually attacked.
While pursuing the armed elements of the communist group, the government will also pursue social development projects for the countryside where the communist group had been recruiting its members.
Norway had facilitated the peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDF before negotiations were scuttled in 2004. In the face of the government’s stance, the communist leaders are seeking the Norwegian government to help resume the talks. The 40 years conflict has killed more than 40,000; at least 233 leftist activists have been killed since Mrs. Arroyo assume power in 2001.
On the Southern side, the fighting in Maguindanao has left more than 40 people dead and displaced at least 16,000 civilians according to an official. The fighting between Moro government militiamen and separatist rebels from the MILF could potentially set back peace negotiations. According to the MILF, the attacks were in retaliation for an earlier military shelling of a rebel training base on the outskirts of the town of Shariff Aguak.
The fighting has subsided, paving the way for an investigation. “This is a good development. We have to find out what really happened and institute measures so this will not be repeated,” said Armed Forces spokesman Jose Honrado. A ceasefire has also been declared by the MILF to save the peace process and to avoid the displacement of more people, said a rebel spokesperson.
Mrs. Arroyo has sought the help of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and is optimistic that the peace talks would proceed.
Gov’t sticks to war, rejects Reds’ peace bid (INQ7 net, 5 July 2006)
Gov’t to Reds: No ceasefire, no peace talks (Sun Star, 5 July 2006)
Ceasefire first, talks later, Palace tells NDF (Manila Standard Today, 5 July 2006)
NDF seeks new peace talks with government (Manila Standard Today, 5 July 2006)
Communist movement seeks resumption of peace talks with gov’t (Sun Star, 5 July 2006)
NDP panel in Oslo to consult with Norway on talks resumption (InQ7 net, 4 July 2006)
Manila says doors stay open for peace with rebels (Washington Post, 5 July 2006)
Week of fighting displaces 16,000 (INQ7 net, 6 July 2006)
Probe set as clashes in Mindanao die down (Manila Standard Today, 5 July 2006)
Guns turn silent in southern Philippines (INQ7 net, 5 July 2006)
MILF declares Maguindanao ceasefire (INQ7 net, 4 July 2006)
Arroyo seeks monitors’ help to save Mindanao peace (INQ7 net, 4 July 2006)