Peace talks still a go

Peace talks still a go
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 06:25 AM June 22, 2018
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1003146/peace-talks-still-a-go

The government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have declared agreement to continue peace negotiations, but only after a three-month lull in back-channel talks.

In separate statements on Thursday, the two panels said a meeting on Monday in Utrecht, the Netherlands, discussed the government’s reasons for postponing the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

Formal talks would have started on June 28 in Oslo, Norway, but President Duterte canceled them and ordered a review of the agreements reached during back-channel talks.

President Duterte also insisted that the peace talks should be held in the Philippines, in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees signed by both parties in 1995 which mandated the holding of formal talks in a “foreign neutral venue.”

The latest three-day meeting in Utrecht between a government team headed by peace panel member Hernani Braganza and the NDFP panel led by chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, however, did not set a date for the resumption of the peace talks.

Reasons for postponement

“The NDFP team listened to the explanation of the [government] 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 NDFP said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Braganza said the government team also conveyed the government’s decision “to suspend all back-channel talks with” the NDFP “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,” he said.

Government consultations

Malacañang will use the three-month lull to consult government agencies and the people about the peace process, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday.

Roque said Mr. Duterte would “personally review” all the agreements reached between the two panels and find out “which were binding on the government” or if these agreements were binding on specific administrations.

“Any willingness on the part of the President to talk peace is always positive,” he said.

Braganza said the NDFP “expressed willingness to keep an open mind on the President’s decision and wait for the outcome of the government’s review.”

“They reiterated their commitment to all signed agreements, including those involving the planned visit of professor Jose Ma. Sison…to Manila for a meeting with the President,” he said.

The NDFP panel members, Braganza said, were also receptive to the invitation of Jesus Dureza, the presidential adviser on the peace process, for them to join the public consultations.

Representatives of the Royal Norwegian Government, including Special Envoy Idun Tvedt, sat in the meetings in their role as third party facilitator.—DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO, JEANETTE I. ANDRADE, JIGGER JERUSALEM AND KARLOS MANLUPIG

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