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)