DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The peace panels are back to their feet as the government peace panel chief Silvestre Bello said the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines will possibly resume the negotiations next month.
Speaking before reporters in Malcañan on Tuesday, Bello said based on their discussions with NDFP peace panel chairman Fidel Agcaoili last Sunday, July 2, the fifth round of talks will resume on the second or third week of August.
But this time, Bello said before the formal talks, the peace panels will meet informally somewhere in Asia. However, he said NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison will not be attending the informal talks which is schedule d by the third week of this month.
The fifth round of talks last May was cancelled after the government refused to participate, citing “lack of enabling environment” for the talks to proceed as the New People’s Army, the armed-wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines continue to step up its offensives.
Bello cited that the order of the CPP to intensify its attacks, is a violation of The Hague Joint Declaration, which states that both parties should provide an atmosphere conducive to the negotiations.
But the CPP said even the government forces had no let up in its military offensives against the NPAs and the community. The CPP also refused to enter into a bilateral ceasefire agreement unless social-economic and political reforms are in place.
The informal meeting, Bello said, will enable the peace panels discuss on the remaining substantive agenda at hand, particularly the socio-economic reforms and the possible interim unilateral ceasefire. When the scheduled formal talks happen in August the panels will submit the agreements for approval of both Panels.
Bello said the informal talks will cover the discussion on the mechanisms of the interim unilateral ceasefire monitoring and who will act as referee. Bello refused to give more details but he added that Agcaoili and GRP negotiator Hernani Braganza were able to talk about having a joint monitoring team of the ceasefire.
He said the unilateral ceasefire may last “as long as we do not have a bilateral ceasefire.”
Martial law directive
Meanwhile, Bello said the Armed Forces of the Philippines Operational Directive 0217 which identifies the NPA as one of the targets of Martial Law, will not affect the talks with communists.
He said it is only part of the “normal operation of the military.”
“So the CPP understand that. Just like (them), (who) once in a while, also launch offensive against our forces,” Bello said. He also said when President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law, it was “declared to counter terrorism.” (davaotoday.com)