CEBU CITY — The highest-ranking military commander in the Visayas said communist New People’s Army terrorists (CNT) still waging war against society should grab the opportunity to directly negotiate with the government, now that the Duterte administration expressed openness for localized peace initiatives.
With the termination of the peace negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), Central Command (Centcom) commander, Lt. General Noel Clement, said his command fully supports localized peace talks.
Clement said Centcom will now start to work with other government agencies in directly engaging with the CNTs in a localized dialogue to give them a chance at a new life.
“The Central Command, along with other government agencies will strongly pursue the localized peace talks. This is to show that the government is sincere towards the attainment of a just and lasting peace,” Clement said in a statement sent to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
He added, that localized peace talks “will serve as an avenue for the CNT members to negotiate directly and receive assistance from the government.”
Through direct negotiations with them, he said that the government will be able to directly address the problems, “thereby justly and objectively terminating the irrelevant NDF-schemed peace process.”
The commander of Centcom said he believes that “finally putting an end to the longstanding armed conflict in the country” can only be attained through a focused dialogue that is limited to specific issues rather than a generalized approach.
“We have the strong support of the local government units and agencies. We expect that the general public will support this endeavor as peace-loving citizens of the country,” he said.
He noted that a number of CNTs in the Visayas, particularly in Panay and Negros Islands, had already surrendered to the military and received help from the government.
“The Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program does not only provide firearm remuneration, but an overall financial, livelihood and employment opportunities for the benefit of the former rebel and his/her family,” he said, stressing that “(we) will facilitate your return to the mainstream society and help you live normal and productive lives.”
“We are hoping to process more CNTs who want to return to the fold of the law and back to the mainstream society.” he said. (PNA)