Gov’t formally suspends back channel talks with NDFP

The Philippine government has formally informed the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) about the government’s decision to suspend all back channel talks pending the three-month review of all signed agreements related to the peace negotiations, a government negotiator announced on Thursday.

Hernani Braganza, government negotiator for back channel talks with the NDFP, said the decision was conveyed in a meeting with NDFP leaders headed by chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili and chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison in Utrecht, The Netherlands on June 18-20.

“Upon instruction of (Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) Secretary Jesus Dureza and (Labor) Secretary Silvestre Bello III, a government team flew to Utrecht to formally communicate to the NDF(P) the decision of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to re-schedule the proposed resumption of government’s peace negotiations with communist guerrillas,” Braganza said in a press statement.

“The suspension, however, does not preclude communications between the two parties if deemed necessary,” he clarified.

During the meeting, the government team also relayed its intention to use the three-month review period to consult government instrumentalities and the general public about the peace negotiations with the communist rebels.

“The NDF(P) leaders, for their part, expressed intention to conduct their own separate actions and activities that aim to protect the gains already achieved as a result of back channel, informal and formal talks between the two panels,” Braganza said.

Braganza said the NDFP representatives have expressed willingness to keep an open mind with Duterte’s decision to suspend the resumption of peace talks.

He said the NDFP is also willing to wait for the outcome of the government’s review of all signed agreements related to peace negotiations.

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

The government, he said, has also expressed appreciation for the NDFP’s “open-mindedness in coming to terms with President Duterte’s decision.”

He said the NDFP is “favorably considering” Dureza’s invitation for its representatives to join the government’s public consultations.

“It is our fervent hope that the consultations will help galvanize public support to peace efforts aimed at ending the armed conflict through the achievement of economic, social and political reforms,” Brangaza said.

The Philippine government has extended its appreciation to the NDFP, as well as to the representatives of the Royal Norwegian Government headed by Special Envoy for Peace Idun Tvedt, for their continuing support as third-party facilitators.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the suspension of back channel talks to give way to more public consultations and a review of all peace deals.

In a Palace briefing Thursday, Roque also extended the Duterte administration’s appreciation to the Royal Norwegian Government for its support to achieve peace between the Philippine government and the NDFP. PNA