L-R: NDFP peace panel Chairperson Fidel Agcaoili, Norwegian Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum, government peace panel member Hernani Braganza and GRP Chief Negotiator Silvestre Bello III. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the government peace panel is still awaiting an order from President Rodrigo Duterte to formally cut the peace negotiations with the communists.

In an interview during the opening of the One-Stop Service Center for OFW at a mall here Friday, Bello, who is also the labor secretary said the government has not yet issued a formal notice to terminate the talks to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“Wala pa, wala pa kami. We are still awaiting instruction from the President,” Bello said.

Bello’s statement came 23 days after Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza announced on July 19 that the government is cancelling the back channel talks with the NDFP originally set “within the next few days in Europe.”

The cancellation came after an armed encounter ensued between the New People’s Army who put up a checkpoint along the Davao-Buda Road in Arakan, North Cotabato and the passing convoy of Presidential Security Group.

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

On July 21, Duterte ordered the arrest of previously freed NDFP consultants as he announced the cancellation of talks with the revolutionary groups.

“No more talk, let us fight. I’ll save enough money for the arms, I’ll buy the new ones, the precision guided missiles,” Duterte said during the opening of the two-day Davao Investment Conference here.

During his visit to military troops in Marawi City on July 20, Duterte also said that after the fighting in Marawi, the government troops will “re-orient” to focus on the NPAs. The NPAs meanwhile, vowed to step up its offensives following the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.

But Bello said the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees which protects NDFP personalities joining the peace negotiations are still in effect.

“JASIG is still in effect because to render the JASIG ineffective, we must give the NDF a formal notice of termination. And the notice of termination takes effect 30 days after receipt of the other party,” Bello explained. The termination of JASIG automatically terminates the peace talks.

“Hindi pa talaga terminated yung talks. That is under the JASIG, the talks continue to be effective until there is a written notice of termination,” Bello stressed.

He said the President could ask either him or Secretary Dureza to submit a notice of termination. But so far, Bello said the President has not given them any order.

“Depende, he would just say, you, send a notice of termination. It could be ‘sabihin niyo kay Secretary Jess Dureza, Sec. Jess magsubmit ka na ng notice of termination.’ Pero so far wala naman (It depends, he would just say, you (Bello) send a notice of termination. It could be ‘tell Secretary Jess Dureza to submit a notice of termination’. But so far there is none),” he said.

Bello, however, clarified that Duterte has “made his point very clear.” “He said no more talks with the CPP-NPA,” he said.

But while the talks remain in limbo, Bello expressed hope that the Parties can go back to the negotiating table.

“We are the advocates of peace, we keep our hopes alive that we will stay in the course of the peace process,” he said. (davaotoday.com)

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