MANILA -- Communist rebels are eyeing “integration” in the Philippine military as among “creative” ways to deal with their combatants should peace talks with the government succeed, their chief negotiator said Friday.
Fidel Agcaoili, chairman of the National Democratic Front’s peace panel, said he was expecting longer negotiations on the final item in the agenda covering the “end of hostilities and disposition of forces.”
The New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has an estimated force of close to 4,000 combatants often responsible for attacks on state troops in the countryside.
“The (government panel) has to exercise a certain flexibility there,” Agcaoili told ANC’s Early Edition.
“Kasi if what they have in mind is simply decommissioning (of rebel forces), eh walang mangyayari.”
Agcaoili said integrating NPA rebels in the armed forces could be a “form of disposition of forces,” citing the case of former members of the Moro National Liberation Front following its final peace agreement in 1996.
“We should be creative. There are many forms,” he said, suggesting that some rebels could also serve as forest guards or work in certain industries.
The NPA is responsible for collecting “revolutionary taxes” usually from businesses in their rural strongholds.
The military said the practice was plain extortion, which was estimated at more than P1 billion in one guerrilla front alone.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier asked the rebels to stop their extortion activities, offering to provide government funding for social services.
Agcaoili said the matter had not been formally presented during negotiations, but could be tackled during discussions on political and constitutional reforms.
Formal talks are set to resume on June 28 during which an interim peace deal is expected to be signed.