Gov’t, Reds resume talks next month
The government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NDFP) have agreed to resume formal peace negotiations next month, chief government peace negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Tuesday.
Bello said that he talked with NDFP chair Fidel Agcaoili on Sunday evening and they agreed to hold the formal negotiations in the second half of August while informal talks would also be held later this month to iron out thorny issues, such as the need for a ceasefire agreement.
“We have an initial understanding that we will probably have the suspended fifth round [of peace talks in the] second or third week of August,” Bello said.
“But before that, [to ensure that] this time we will have a good result, there will be an informal meeting between the panels,” he said.
Bello said the informal talks could be held here in the country or in Hong Kong while the NDFP panel suggested Japan.
“So, there will be an informal meeting and they will discuss mainly the issue of socioeconomic reforms and the possible interim unilateral ceasefire,” he said.
“They will talk so that, when August comes, everything will be clear,” he said.
The fifth round of peace talks with the rebels was suspended on May 27 after the government panel withdrew from the talks due to the CPP order telling its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to intensify attacks against security forces.
The CPP ordered the NPA to accelerate attacks after President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao due to the crisis in Marawi.
The CPP subsequently offered to fight alongside the military against the terrorists in Marawi but this was turned down by the President.
Bello said both sides could agree to declare their own “interim unilateral ceasefire.”
He said the ceasefire committees of each party could decide who would constitute the joint monitoring team for the ceasefire.
Bello said the interim unilateral ceasefire could continue until both sides agree on a formal bilateral ceasefire agreement.
Bello also said the talks would not be affected by a military order to its units to “degrade the armed capabilities” of the NPA while martial law is enforced in Mindanao.
He also downplayed the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday that the government should not hold talks with the CPP-NPA-NDFP while the communist insurgents continued their attacks.
“Well, you know, whenever the panel goes to the venue for the peace talks or the round of talks, we regularly consult the intelligence community of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Bello said.
He said the panels consult National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon before each round of talks.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.