Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus G. Dureza and GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III during the fourth round of talks on April 6, 2017 at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk Aan Zee in the Netherlands. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The fifth round of the formal talks, which was supposed to tackle the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms in August is again on the rocks.

The government peace panel announced Wednesday that the backchannel talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines are cancelled following the recent attack of the New People’s Army in Arakan, North Cotabato.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza announced the cancellation of the backchannel talks in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon.

“I am announcing the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF originally set within the next few days in Europe due to recent developments involving attacks done by the NPAs,” Dureza said.

He said: “the situation on the ground necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of the peace negotiation are still not present up to this time.”

In an interview with Davao Today on Wednesday, Randall Echanis, member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social Economic Reforms said the backchannel talks on July 21 to 23 are supposed to tackle how they will resume the formal talks.

The parties are supposed to tackle the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), release of political prisoners and the ceasefire.

Around 6am Wednesday, a convoy from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) encountered the NPAs in a checkpoint set up by the guerrilla fighters of the 1st Pulang Bagani Company of the NPA in the tri-boundary of Arakan, North Cotabato, Bukidnon and Davao City.

Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the encounter involved 10 personnel boarding two vehicles going to Cagayan de Oro City.

The NPAs were clad in military uniform along the highway and put up a checkpoint.

Balagtey said five were wounded and immediately brought to German Doctors Hospital, Buda, Marilog District, Davao City. The casualties were identified as Staff Sargeant Arniel L Matunhay, Sgt. Gerry N Torsar, Cpl. Rodel A Ledesma, Cpl. Ayam P. Alia and a certain SSg Lisondra.

PSG Spokesman Michael Aquino said the PSG personnel were on “administrative” duty.

The NPA also said they arrested an agent of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group. “The operation was conducted amidst Mindanao martial law,” the NPA said.

President Rodrigo Duterte previously met with the government peace panel on Tuesday in Malacañan and directed the negotiators not to resume the formal talks unless the communists agree to stop attacks against government troops in Mindanao.

The fifth round of the formal talks was cancelled last May after the GRP peace panel refused to participate due to “lack of conducive environment” for the negotiations.

Echanis said the government wants to talk about ceasefire while the NDFP is bent on pushing for social, economic, and political reforms before prolonged ceasefire.

“Yung CASER maaprubahan muna tapos yung release of political prisoners bago mapag-usapan yung ceasefire,” Echanis said, adding that there is a sequence of the agenda for negotiations.

CASER is the second of the fourth substantive agenda of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. The other agenda is the political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces. (

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