By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
THE Philippine government has suspended all backchannel talks with the National Democtratic Front (NDF) pending the three-month review of all signed agreements related to the peace negotiations, government peace panel member Hernani A. Braganza said on Thursday.
In a statement, Mr. Braganza said that upon instructions of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, “a government team flew to Utrecht to formally communicate to the NDF the decision of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to re-schedule the proposed resumption of government’s peace negotiations with communist guerrillas.”
He added: “In a meeting with the NDF leaders headed by Chief Negotiator Fidel V. Agcaoili and attended by Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria C. Sison, the government team also conveyed the Philippine government’s decision to suspend all backchannel talks with the NDF pending the three-month review of all signed agreements related to the peace negotiations. The suspension, however, does not preclude communications between the two parties if deemed necessary.”
Mr. Braganza said the meeting between the two parties was witnessed by third-party facilitators from the Royal Norwegian Government led by Special Envoy for Peace Idun Tvedt.
During the meeting, Mr. Braganza also said, “the NDF representatives expressed willingness to keep an open mind on the President’s decision and wait for the outcome of the government’s review before proceeding with any peace conversation with government. They reiterated their commitment to all signed agreements, including those involving the planned visit of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison in the Philippines to Manila for a meeting with the President. In turn, we extended the government panel’s appreciation to the NDF’s open-mindedness in coming to terms with President Duterte’s decision.”
For its part, the NDF said in a statement on Wednesday, “The NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) team listened to the explanation of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) team on the reasons for postponing the resumption of the formal talks and agreed that the peace negotiations continue despite the cancellation of the scheduled formal talks in Oslo on June 28 to 30. The agreements reached in the four rounds of informal talks in March, April, May and June 2018, remain valid and have the effect of continuing the peace negotiations under the direction of the principals and reaffirmation of previous agreements.”
“In this regard, the two sides must comply with JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) and its provision for a foreign neutral venue, consistent with the general practice of warring parties to negotiate peace outside of their country or their respective territories,” the NDF also said.
The statement also noted that “the GRP team had to seek clarification from its Principal of the statement made by GRP Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that the Third Party Facilitator (TPF) had been dismissed. With the role of the TPF clarified,… (t)he NDFP side assured the other side that the NDFP principal took note of the clarification.”
“The role of the TPF is of key importance while there is need to hold formal peace negotiations in a foreign neutral venue in compliance with the pertinent provision in the (JASIG),” the statement said.