NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands—The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) announced they “would not proceed to participate” in the fifth round of formal peace negotiations until some conditions are met by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“(We) will not proceed to participate in the scheduled fifth round of peace negotiations until such time as there are clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land through peace negotiations across this table shall prevail,” the GRP, through Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, said.
Dureza cited the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) order to the New People’s Army (NPA) to further intensify its military operations against GRP forces as a “defiant, blatant and serious challenge to the Duterte administration” as a reason for their decision.
“We want the CPP to retract their directive to the NPA,” Dureza said.
The GRP also said they are “suggesting” to the NDFP that a bilateral ceasefire agreement is signed during the round.
This is the second time the GRP submitted to its counterpart a set of demands before a formal opening to a round of formal peace negotiations.
The fourth round of talks in this city last April was postponed by a day while the parties looked for ways to respond to President Rodrigo Duterte’s four “barest conditionalities”.
“Defense of the people”
The CPP earlier ordered the NPA to “defend the people” against a possible increase of human rights violations, especially after Duterte’s May 22 martial law declaration over the whole of Mindanao.
The CPP also reacted to National Defense secretary Delfin’s Lorenzana’s statement that the NPA was among the targets of Duterte’s martial law.
GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III, however, said they have already “clarified that the NPA is not among the targets of Duterte’s martial law declaration.”
Lorenzana on Saturday, May 27, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines “will not specifically target” the NPA in the government’s martial law implementation in Mindanao.
Lorenzana issued the media statement a few hours before the scheduled opening of the fifth round of formal talks and in response to NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison’s call for the GRP and the NDFP forces to unite against terrorism.
5th round still possible
The NDFP through its spokesperson Luis Jalandoni said that should the fifth round of negotiations are cancelled, “the decision was made by the GRP.”
In an interview, Jalandoni said the GRP’s demand to the CPP is a new one and it was not included in their April 6 Joint Statement that the fifth round of talks shall focus on the socio-economic reforms agenda.
He added that a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement also must only come after ground rules for its implementation have been forged by the parties.
“We are supposed to be talking while fighting like the parties have successfully done in the past, especially during the Ramos regime,” Jalandoni said.
NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they are still trying to find ways for the 5th round to proceed but “will not be blackmailed into agreeing into a premature bilateral ceasefire agreement.”
GRP panel member Hernani Braganza said there is still hope for the round as long as both panels are in this city and are still willing to talk. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)