MANILA, Philippines – Reiterating its resolve to hold peace talks with the government, the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) said the guerrillas were not bothered by recent statements of President Rodrigo Duterte hitting them for an ambush that killed soldiers and civilian militias.
In a statement released early Monday, August 8, Luis Jalandoni, head of the NDF panel negotiating with government, said formal talks between both parties must begin as scheduled on August 20-27 in Oslo, Norway.
“It's better than not to resume formal peace talks on August 20-27, 2016,” Jalandoni said. “It is during the formal talks that the GPH and NDFP negotiating panels can discuss the mode of ceasefire and how best to arrange this.”
Speaking before troops on Saturday night, August 6, Duterte urged the guerrillas to stop the use of landmines in attacking government military forces.
“Either you stop it or we stop talking. Let’s fight [for] another 45 years,” Duterte said in his speech on Saturday, when he visited the wake of the fallen soldiers who died in clashes with the New People's Army (NPA).
Jalandoni did not make much of it. “We understand that as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines he has the duty to show official and personal concern for his troops and mourn their death as casualties of war,” Jalandoni said.
“However, we wish to point out that the use of command-detonated land mines is not violative of the Geneva Convention and the Ottawa Treaty,” he added.
In the absence of any ceasefire declared by the NPA, the guerrillas “can use these weapons,” Jalandoni said.
Duterte on July 25 declared a unilateral ceasefire with the NPA but lifted it after a few days after a rebel ambush killed government troops.
But the government had also asked the Supreme Court to temporarily release top rebels who are consultants of the NDF panel for the Oslo talks. The SC denied the release petition, saying it had no jurisdiction over it.