Dureza: Backchannel talks canceled due to NPA attacks

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 19) — The government on Wednesday canceled backchannel talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) due to the recent attacks by its armed wing, said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.

"I am announcing the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA (New People's Army)/NDF (National Democratic Front) originally set within the next few days in Europe due to recent developments involving attacks done by the NPAs," Dureza said in a Facebook post.

The NDF is the political arm of the CPP, which represents the group in peace talks, while the NPA is its armed wing.

This follows an encounter between the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and the NPA in Arakan, North Cotabato on Wednesday, which resulted in a civilian volunteer dead, an asset of the police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group abducted, and five members of the PSG wounded.

"The situation on the ground necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations are still not present up to this time," Dureza said.

In a Palace statement, President Rodrigo Duterte said he ordered the government panel not to resume formal peace talks with the Reds unless its members stop attacking government troops in Mindanao.

The statement comes after the CPP said on July 19 that it would oppose Duterte's plan to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2017, a move the group claims to be directed against them.

It added the peace panel was originally set to conduct backchannel talks with the NDF to discuss the resumption of formal negotiations between the two groups.

Dureza said the resumption of formal talks would depend on the rebel group's commitment to follow certain guidelines for a possible ceasefire deal with government, including suspending operations against the military and the police and stopping all their extortion activities on the ground, among others.

He said the NDF needs to order the NPA to halt all offensive operations against government troops "in order to pursue their shared goal of sustaining economic development throughout Mindanao."

Duterte lifted on Feb. 3 the government's unilateral ceasefire against the NPA, saying the group's demand were too much.

This came after the group said on Feb. 1 that it would continue fighting the government starting Feb. 10.

Duterte said after releasing the communist leaders and engaging them in peace talks in Oslo, Norway, the communists are now asking the government to free all 400 political prisoners from the communist side. He added it's a demand the government cannot easily meet.

"I thought all the while we have the ceasefire, suddenly they lifted it because they wanted ang Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) would want me to release 400 prisoners," Duterte said.

CNN Philippines' digital producers Lara Tan, VJ Bacungan, and Ver Marcelo contributed to this story.