NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands —- Is President Rodrigo Duterte terminating the formal talks with communists?
Negotiators of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines said they are confused on the government’s dealing with them after Duterte ordered for the arrest of their negotiators who were released to participate in the resumption of the formal talks in August last year.
Duterte on Wednesday warned NDFP peace consultants whom he released will be arrested once they go back to the Philippines.
“I am warning the leaders whom I have released and who are now talking to the representatives of my government: Do not attempt to come home. I will arrest all of you and throw you to the slammer,” Duterte said during his speech at the 119th Philippine Navy Anniversary held in Davao City.
But the communists lamented that the government is giving them “mixed signals.”
“We are receiving mixed signals from the GRP. Earlier Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and GRP peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III gave us assurance that what they are cancelling is just the 5th round of formal talks but they are not cancelling the negotiations and so the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees remain in place,” said NDFP peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili in a press conference here said.
The JASIG is an agreement signed on February 24, 1995 between the Philippine government and the NDFP to provide safety and immunity guarantees to negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel participating in the peace negotiations.
NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said once a party terminates the JASIG, it gives a 30-day notice.
“In effect the whole peace negotiations is terminated. There is no middle ground,” he said.
This is because JASIG gives protection to peace consultants to allow them to perform their functions.
Reds determined to negotiate
But while the government maintains its position not to talk with the communists, the NDFP said they are still opting to talk it out.
“We are still for the continuation of the peace negotiations, preparing for the fifth round and agreeing to meetings of bilateral teams,” Agcaoili said.
Sison said they are also waiting that “tempers will cool down.” He said they are still determined to pursue talks under Duterte who promised social reforms and introduced himself as first Left president.
“From my side as chief consultant, I’m still impressed that we have a President who says he’s left, who’s willing to go for genuine land reform, national industrialization and independent foreign policy,” he said.
“Those are the things that we try to keep in mind. There are some bright lights to go by along the way,” Sison said.
Second impasse this year
The peace talks between the government and the NDFP suffered a setback twice this year.
In early February, shortly after the conclusion of the successful 4th round of formal talks in Rome, Italy, Duterte terminated the formal talks following the attacks against government troops.