July 21, 2018, 12:52 pm
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NDFP: Gov’t, Reds agree to resume formal talks: Gov’t suspends backchannel negos for 3 months

BY VICTOR REYES AND RAYMOND AFRICA 

 PEACE negotiators of the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have agreed to resume formal talks, after days of squabbling due to President Duterte’s cancellation of the formal talks set next week.

The NDFP did not mention any date for the resumption.

Its statement came as government announced that all backchannel talks between the government and the communist group are suspended for here months and all agreements that have been reached will be reviewed during the suspension.

Hernani Braganza, government negotiator for the backchannel talks, said the NDFP was informed of the three-month suspension during a meeting in the Netherlands on June 18-20.

The NDFP, in the statement yesterday, said the agreement to resume formal talks was reached by representatives of the two peace panels during a three-day meeting in the Netherlands, which ended Wednesday.

The NDFP said government negotiators led by Braganza explained during the meeting the government’s recent decision to postpone the resumption scheduled on June 28 in Oslo, Norway.

Authorities have said President Duterte ordered the postponement of the formal talks on Wednesday last week so government can review a stand-down agreement, initialed by the two panels during back-channel talks from June 6 to 9.

The latest meeting was attended by representatives of the Norwegian government, including special envoy Idun Tvet. Earlier reports there might be no need for a facilitator if the talks would be held in the Philippines, as Duterte wants.

“The meeting could not start on time on June 18 because 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 (TFP) had been dismissed,” the NDFP said.

It said the meeting started in the afternoon after the role of the facilitator was clarified. The NDFP said it “took note” of the government’s 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 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG),” it said.

Norway has been long been the facilitator of the peace talks. 

There have been four rounds of formal talks under the Duterte administration. The first two were held in Norway, the third in Italy, and the fourth in the Netherlands where NDFP chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison, who is also founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been on self-exile since the late 80s. A fifth round had been scheduled but Duterte cancelled the talks in November last year because of continued attacks by the New People’s Army, the CCP’s armed wing, on government forces and even civilians.

The NDFP said it listened to the government’s explanation on the decision to postpone 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 NDFP said the agreements reached in four rounds of informal talks in March, April, May, and June “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 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 NDFP said.

The NDFP said it will hold consultations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and Political and Constitutional Reforms, two of the substantive agendas of the talks.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said among the agreements to be reviewed are the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Braganza said the government will make use of the three-month review period to consult instrumentalities of government and the general public about the negotiations and the substantive issues involved.

He said the NDF officials also “expressed intention to conduct their own separate actions and activities that aim to protect the gains already achieved as a result of backchannel, informal and formal talks between the two panels.”

He said the NDF is also considering government’s invitation to the communists to participate in public consultations in relation to the peace talks.

“It is our fervent hope that the consultations will help galvanize public support to peace efforts aimed at ending the armed conflict through the achievement of economic, social and political reforms,” Braganza said.
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