Duterte halted talks with Reds amid progress on reforms – NDFP

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte meets with National Democratic Front (NDF) Peace Panel members Fidel Agcaoili (second from right), Chit Agcaoili, Benito Tiamzon, and Wilma Tiamzon over dinner at Bondi and Bourke Restaurant at Legaspi Suites, Davao City, on December 2,2016. (TOTO LOZANO/Presidential Photographers Division)

DAVAO CITY — The peace negotiation between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines had been making progress , contrary to the assertion of President Duterte that it was not, when he scrapped it.

Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address, slammed the peace panels of both the Philippine government and the NDFP, for allegedly traveling without discussing any substantial issues.

Fidel Agcaoili, NDF peace panel chair, commented that Duterte’s statement was not true and was unfair.

The NDFP peace negotiator said that significant progress had been achieved since the talks resumed under the Duterte administration.

“Yes, like the agreement on free land distribution to the tillers as the fundamental principle governing land reform,” Agcaoili said.

He added that the peace panels also agreed on many points for social and economic reforms which were expected to resolve the root causes of the conflict.

“In the last bilateral team meetings ng (of) CASER (Comprehensive Agreements on Social and Economic Reforms), maraming points of agreement sa Agrarian Reform and Rural Development which could have been worked out as the tentative draft agreement na sana kung natuloy ang backchannel (…there were many points of agreement on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development which could have been worked out as the tentative draft agreement if the backchannel talks proceeded),” Agcaoili said.

But the backchannel talks and the fifth round of talks were called off by the Philippine government following a series of clashes on the ground between the New People’s Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The NDFP said that communist guerrillas were only responding to attacks by government forces.

“In the last three rounds of talks, walang napag-usapan dahil sa ayaw makipag-usap ng GRP kundi papayag ang NDFP na magkaroon ng ceasefire nang walang pag-uusap tungkol sa reporma o pagbabago sa lipunan (In the last three round of talks, nothing really was discussed because the GRP did not want to talk unless the NDFP agreed to a ceasefire),” Agcaoili said.  SFM