Taguiwalo appeals for the Resumption of Peace Talks

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Friday appealed anew for the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels, citing civilian casualties in the renewed armed conflict.

Taguiwalo said the social workers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the Cordillera Administrative Region are assisting nearly 400 villagers who fled their homes in Asipulo, Ifugao, after soldiers attacked a suspected camp of New People’s Army rebels in Sitio Pinugao, Barangay Namal, in the municipality on Feb. 12.

At least one villager died from exposure outside the evacuation center, she said.

Taguiwalo, who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte on the recommendation of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said having civilians caught in the crossfire is a “very compelling” reason to resume the peace talks.

“We must all support calls for the resumption of the peace negotiations. Armed conflict often leads to violations of the rights of civilians … Their lives are put in danger,” she said.

Clashes between the military and the rebels erupted this month after the NDFP’s declaration terminating its own unilateral ceasefire, citing the nonrelease of 400 political prisoners and military incursions on rebel-controlled areas.

Mr Duterte terminated the peace negotiations on Feb. 4.

The DSWD said 98 families, or 398 villagers, including 107 children, had been staying in five evacuation centers in Asipulo.

Meanwhile, Malacañang on Friday insisted that communist rebels show confidence-building measures to prove their sincerity in talking peace, after the Ecumenical Bishops Forum urged President Duterte to “keep walking toward peace.”

(Repost from; Article by Ms. Donna Z. Pazzibugan & Ms. Leila B. Salaverria)
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