Duterte postpones resumption of formal GRP-NDFP talks

Government peace adviser Jesus Dureza announced President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to postpone the scheduled June 28 resumption of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a press briefing in Malacañan Thursday, Dureza said the initial timeline both parties worked on had to be “necessarily adjusted” after Duterte instructed to government panel to “engage the bigger peace table, the general public.”

“Our peace efforts to succeed should have good support from the general public. Hence, it is necessary that all efforts must be exerted first to inform then engage them in the same way that the government engages the rebels in addressing the root causes of conflict,” Dureza explained.

It was earlier announced that the thrice-cancelled fifth round of formal talks shall be held on June 28 to 30 after a week of implementing a seven day “stand down agreement” between their respective armed forces starting June 21

“We are now on the cusp of major breakthroughs in the peace talks, hence the urgent need now to take deliberate steps to ensure that we do not falter. Just and sustainable and lasting peace will happen only when our people understand and support these efforts,” Dureza added.

Dureza said that GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III has already called his counterpart to inform them of Duterte’s postponement of the talks.

He added that GRP representatives are set to fly to The Netherlands to personally explain the GRP decision.


NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they consider the postponement a setback from the schedule that both parties have already agreed upon.

Agcaoili revealed that even before Dureza’s announcement to postpone both the “stand down agreement” and the resumption of formal talks on June 21 and June 28, respectively, the GRP has already told him and the Third Party Facilitator (TPF), the Royal Norwegian Government, of its unilateral decision.

“The GRP also said they would send a team here to The Netherlands this weekend to explain to us the basis of their decision and the Third Party Facilitator shall be present,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“Of course we consider this a setback from the schedule that we have already agreed upon. But we are ready to receive their team this weekend to explain to us the reasons for their unilateral decision to make adjustments to the schedule,” Agcaoili said.

The NDFP chief negotiator said he was told by the GRP that Duterte wants to study the documents of the four backchannel talks since he ordered the resumption of the negotiations last March.

“But there may also be other reasons. Remember, before he even met his peace panel yesterday, Duterte already announced that the resumption of the talks shall be in mid-July,” Agcaoili said.

He added that the NDFP panel considers the development as merely a rescheduling of the talks, given that GRP courts have agreed to allow six NDFP negotiators to travel to Oslo, Norway for the resumption of formal negotiations.

The six are Benito Tiamzon, Allan Jazmines, Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Randall Echanis and Vicente Ladlad.

“The only problem is that the six have yet to be issued visa and departure orders,” Agcaoili said.

The GRP has also yet to answer NDFP and TPF’s queries on the finalization of the coordinated unilateral ceasefire as well as the agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development sections of the prospective comprehensive social and economic agreement, he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists score Malacañang’s cancellation of backchannel talks with Reds

The peace talks must continue even under conditions of intense fighting between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said in response to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ (GRP) cancellation of its scheduled backchannel talks with the the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. in a statement said the clashes between the NPA and the AFP today are additional reasons the peace talks must be held to find a way to stop the fighting.

“Insisting that the fighting stop before even the talks can proceed goes against the very nature of the talks. It puts the cart before the horse, so to speak,” Reyes said.

Reyes was reacting to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza’s cancellation today of the scheduled backchannel talks between the GRP and the NDFP following an encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Arakan, North Cotabato this morning.

“I am announcing the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front) originally set within the next few days in Europe due to recent developments involving attacks done by the NPAs,” Dureza in his Facebook said.

“The situation on the ground necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations are still not present up to his time,” he added.

Aside from the Arakan clash where a paramilitary trooper was reportedly killed and three members of the Presidential Security Group were injured, two Marines were also reported killed by the NPA in the northern Palawan town of Roxas Wednesday morning.

Dureza announced early Wednesday morning that President Rodrigo Duterte instructed his peace negotiators led by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III last night to meet with the NDFP soon for the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

NDFP peace consultant Allan Jazmines, for his part, also told Kodao yesterday that NDFP and GRP negotiators are set to meet in Europe next week.

What about AFP attacks?

Reyes blamed the AFP and President Rodrigo Duterte’s Martial Law declaration in Mindanao for the increasing number of armed encounters in the regions.

“The AFP, under Martial Law, has carried military campaigns against communities not even related to the conflict in Marawi. There have (been) attacks on schools, displacement of civilians, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and other (human rights) violations,” Reyes said.

He added that the AFP has not stopped its all-out war against the NPA, accusing the AFP of not reciprocating the latest temporary cessation of armed offensives in Mindanao offered by the NDF last June 19 at the height of the Marawi crisis.

“More than the NPA attacks, it is martial law which has created the most negative effect on the talks. The President says that (martial law) is not intended against the NPA. However, the AFP has from the onset, used (martial law) against the NPA,” Reyes said.

“How could there be no fighting if such was the case? How can martial law not be a factor in the peace talks?” Reyes asked.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay also blamed Duterte’s martial law for the absence of the so-called conducive atmosphere for the continuation of formal peace negotiations.

“The imposition of martial law certainly worsened the climate for meaningful and substantive discussions in the peace process,” Palabay said.

Palabay said martial law in Mindanao is worsened by AFP’s all-out war policy throughout the country though the aerial bombing of communities in Luzon and Mindanao affecting thousands of civilians.

“With the backchannel talks cancelled by the GRP, and with the extension and even possible expansion of the scope of martial law hovering like a Damocles sword, the Filipino people, including the people of Mindanao, will face further unpeace,” she said.

Reyes said the Filipino people demand the peace talks to continue because of the urgent need to address the roots of the armed conflict through fundamental socio-economic reforms.

“What is at stake here is the prospect of a just peace. This is bigger than the ceasefire issue which we know to be always unstable if there are no basic reforms. The best way to secure peace is to move forward with the substantive (social and economic reforms) agenda,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image from Reyes’ Facebook post)


Dureza: Maasin raid not covered by the Minda-wide no offensive declarations

The New People’s Army (NPA) raid on a police station in Iloilo yesterday was not covered by the government and the Left’s statements to mutually refrain from offensive operations in Mindanao, a cabinet secretary clarified today.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a statement the Maasin, Iloilo incident must be dealt with by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as there is no mutually-agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement in place nationwide.

While “disheartened” with the attack, Dureza said he hopes “the attack is just part of the birthpains of the agreement to stop offensive military actions even if it covers only Mindanao as of now.”

A unit of the NPA’s Napoleon Tumagtang Command in Panay Island launched a daring 20-minute daytime raid yesterday that netted them 11 M16 assault rifles, four pistols, assorted ammunition and communication equipment.

The surprised PNP officers on duty failed to put up a fight.

Julio Montana, spokesperson of the Coronacion “Waling-Waling” Regional Command of the NPA in Panay, said the raid was in response to complaints of extortion of small time market vendors by the Maasin PNP.

“(They also) allow narcotics and illegal gambling to proliferate,” Montana said in a statement issued after the raid.

AFP’s Task Force Panay immediately deployed to Maasin but the guerillas have already withdrawn from the Maasin town center on board a truck and PNP’s own patrol vehicle.

Both vehicles were later separately found abandoned in neighboring towns.

The NPA is an allied organization of the NDFP.

The NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte government are reportedly holding back-channel talks after their cancelled fifth round of formal peace negotiations in The Netherlands last month in an effort to resume talks in August. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP and NDFP assure each other of wanting peace

THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) assured each other today of their mutual desire for peace in the country, even as scheduled formal negotiations have been cancelled. Read more