Panels may resume talks in August; GRP commits to no offensives vs NPA

Stalled formal peace negotiations between the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may resume in August, sources told Kodao Productions.

Following exchanges of “friendly” statements after Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiators backed off from the scheduled fifth round of talks in The Netherlands last month, back-channel talks are reportedly ongoing in a bid to resume the talks in about two months.

“There is a possibility that the talks will be held in August,” a source involved in the negotiations said.

In his weekly Philippine Star column yesterday, NDFP independent observer and former chief negotiator Satur Ocampo wrote that both parties have agreed to resume the talks, adding the panels may issue their respective statements soon.

“A few days ago, it was learned that, through back channel talks, members of the two panels had resolved certain actual or perceived hindrances and agreed to continue the disrupted fifth round of negotiations within two months,” Ocampo reported.

He added that NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison already broke the “good news” in an interview with ANC Wednesday morning.

“He (Sison) said statements on the points of agreement arrived at during the back-channel talks can be expected to be officially issued separately by the panels,” Ocampo added.

No offensive operations

In a statement today, GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III declared that the Philippine government will not launch offensive operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) in response to the NDFP’s recommendation to the Communist Party of the Philippines to refrain from attacking the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police while the battle in Marawi City is ongoing.

“The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army to pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace,” Bello said.

Yesterday, the NDFP said it has already instructed its allied organization, the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), inside Marawi City to assume home defense tasks against the Maute, Abu Sayyaf and AKP groups.

It added the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has also directed units of the New People’s Army (NPA) close to Marawi City to redeploy for the purpose of mopping up, holding and blocking operations, if necessary.

“For all forces to be able to concentrate against Maute, Abu Sayyaf and AKP groups, the NDFP has recommended to the CPP to order all other NPA units in Mindanao to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), provided that the GRP order the AFP and PNP likewise to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the NPA and people’s militia,” the NDFP said.

Bello said the GRP welcomes NDFP’s support to the fight against the Maute, Abu Sayyaf and Ansar al-Khalifah groups and other terrorist organizations wreaking havoc in Marawi City and other parts of the country.

“These voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF in solidarity with government against acts of terrorism augur well for the desired continuation of the stalled 5th round of peace talks as they provide, if sustained, the needed enabling environment favorable to moving the peace negotiations forward,” Bello said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)