NDFP says backchannel talks with GRP scheduled as early as February

THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel confirmed that backchannel talks with Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) for the resumption of formal peace negotiations are about to happen.

In an interview with KODAO, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said both parties agreed to secret backchannel talks as early as the first week of February after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated formal peace negotiations.

“For some reason, these have been delayed till now,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili also said the NDFP has kept its end of the bargain by not revealing plans or issuing any statement that would upset the backchannel talks.

Agcaoili also revealed that discussions have been going on since between the Royal Norwegian Government, third party peace facilitator to the peace process, and the GRP Panel.

Earlier today, Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced in a speech at the National Defense College that Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza has left for Europe last March 8, presumably to lead the GRP delegation to the backchannel talks.

“Last night, we allowed the departure of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and Mr. Ladlad to do some back-channeling,” Lorenzana added.

Benito Tiamzon is an NDFP Peace Panel member while Wilma Tiamzon and Vicente Ladlad are consultants.

Agcaoili said the backchannel aims to bring about the continuation of the talks after Duterte’s termination of formal talks last February.

He said they are aiming to hold the scheduled fourth round in April in Oslo, Norway and continue discussions on the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the prospective Comprehensive Agreements on Socio-Economic Reforms and Political and Constitutional Reforms.

No ceasefire in place

Agcaoili also reacted to Duterte’s latest statement ordering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to pursue New People’s Army (NPA) fighters the President said were responsible for the death of four police officers in Bansalan, Davao del Sur Wednesday.

“On the Bansalan incident, we still have to confirm if this was done by the NPA command in the area,” Agcaoili said.

Duterte told government troops may use newly-acquired jets to drop bombs on the NPA.  “Go ahead, flatten the hills,” he said.

“AFP and PNP troops have been going into villages and violating people’s rights in their combat and intelligence operations, including murderous Tokhang operations,” Agcaoli replied.

Agcaoili issued a reminder that there is no ceasefire in place at the moment, saying the NPA also lost four fighters to a raid by the Philippine Army’s 2nd Jungle Fighter Company in San Andres, Quezon Province last March 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)