Gov't 'will not proceed' peace talks with communist rebels

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 27) — The government said on May 27 that it will not proceed with peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF until an environment conducive to negotiations is established.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a media briefing in The Netherlands – where the fifth round of talks were initially set from May 27 to June 1 – that serious challenges need to be addressed, including the "upscale of incidents of offensive attacks by the NPAs throughout the country."

He said the "most serious development" that has put the peace talks "in jeopardy" is the "blatant publicly announced decision of the Communist Party of the Philippines… ordering their forces on the ground to accelerate and intensify attacks against the government in the face of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao."

The New People's Army (NPA) is the CPP's armed wing.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, following clashes between government troops and the Maute terror group in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.

The CPP said on May 25 that "Duterte's martial law is against the people, [and] it is imperative for the New People's Army to take action to oppose and fight it in order to defend the people's rights and interests."

But the NDF said it does not agree with the reasons cited by the government for the "cancellation" of peace talks.

"Right now, we are discussing how to respond to this statement of Jesus Dureza that this round of talks is being cancelled and giving reasons to which we do not agree," NDF Senior Adviser Luis Jalandoni told reporters on May 27.

The NDF represents the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in talks to end the communists' 48-year-old insurgency, the longest-running in Asia.

Jalandoni said the CPP-NPA-NDF has a duty to protect the masses, especially in Mindanao, from human rights violations.

"It does not consider the reality on the ground that so many hundreds of thousands of people all over Mindanao, all over the country are suffering all these violations of their rights, so that the defense of the people by the NPA becomes primary has to continue and be a protector of the people," he said. "So maling-mali yung sasabihin 'Ah…kasalanan ng NPA.'"

Jalandoni added that the CPP will only agree to a ceasefire once the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) is implemented and when political prisoners are released.

"They are asking for a ceasefire agreement, but we can only have that if the CAHRIHL is being implemented and the rights of the people are respected, and then we can have that agreement on social and economic reform," he said.

NDF: Gov't demands 'unreasonable'

In a separate statement, the NDF said Dureza's "vague" statement was an "ultimatum" to comply with "unreasonable demands."

"The CPP order was in response to the intensified AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) operations and widespread human rights violations preceding and following the declaration of Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao," the group said. "Duterte justified his action by citing as reason the terrorist actions of the Maute Group in Marawi City.   But Lorenzana declared that the NPA was also a target of AFP military operations. Silvestre Bello made a subsequent clarification that Duterte had said that the Mindanao martial law was not aimed against the NPA."

However, the NDF said the AFP attacked peasant and civilian communities in Mindanao, thus requiring NPA units to "undertake more and more tactical offensives."

Despite the government not proceeding with the peace talks, the group said it is ready to resume the fifth round of formal talks "when the other side is willing to do so."

CNN Philippines Digital Producer Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please refresh page for details.

Updated on May 28 to clarify the details of the story.