DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The peace talks with the government and the communists would only resume if the New People’s Army, the armed-wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, would stop collecting revolutionary taxes, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday.
Duterte said the NPA’s revolutionary tax is another term for “extortion.”
“That is just a matter of semantics. They call it ‘revolutionary tax,’ actually it’s extortion. Kaya nga may away tayo eh [The reason why we have conflict],” Duterte told reporters at Camp Bahian, Barangay Impalambong, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.
Four years ago, Duterte advised businessmen to “just pay” revolutionary tax.
Speaking before the participants of the Davao Trade Expo in 2013, Duterte who was then Davao City Mayor told the participants that revolutionary tax is ” a matter others want to avoid.”
See related story: NPA taxation a reality, just pay them – Duterte
This time around, as Philippine President, he said, “I refuse now to resume the talks with them (communists) until they stop extortion. People will say they pay taxes and yet they do not receive protection and they are being extorted by the NPA.”
“It’s plain extortion. And if they want to continue, to resume the talks, one of the things that I would demand would really be that they stop the extortion activities,” he added.
Although the Duterte administration has expressed its commitment to end the decades-old fight between government and communists, he pointed out that peace would be achieved if both Parties would seal into an agreement.
The chief executive said that he does not want to fight with the communist rebels who were fighting with the government since 1969.
Fidel Agcaoili, the communists’ chief peace negotiator, previously explained in a press conference in Ateneo de Davao here in 2016, that the CPP-NPA has the right to impose revolutionary tax because it has “organs of political power” in the communities.
“You have to understand that the revolutionary movement has organs of political power operating in the countryside,” Agcaoili said.
“They have the right. Any state has the right to impose taxes on any form of business that operates within its own territory,” he added. “The money goes… to efforts to help the community like establishing school cooperatives, and medical services,” he said.
Previously, Duterte cited certain conditions before he allow the government to negotiate with the communists days before the fourth round of talks in April. Among these conditions is the NPA should stop collecting revolutionary taxes and that government troops should not be prohibited from entering territories claimed by the guerrillas.
But the back-channel talks between both Parties paved the way for the continuation of the fourth round of talks. Next month, the Parties are scheduled to meet again to resume the fifth round of talks.
GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III announced that on the third week of this month, an informal meeting between the Parties will be held to discuss the socio-economic reforms and the possible declaration of an interim unilateral ceasefire.
Prior to this informal meeting, 10 political prisoners were granted pardon by the government. ( davaotoday.com )