The spike in new Coronavirus-19 (Covid-19) cases in Europe late last year frustrated plans for back-channel talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said a planned trip by GRP emissaries to The Netherlands last December did not push through as many countries in Europe implemented extended lockdowns.
“What (labor secretary) Bebot [Silvestre Bello] said that he and (former Pangasinan Representative and GRP Negotiating Panel member) Nani (Hernani Braganza) planned to come over was true,” Sison said.
Sison confirmed that the planned back-channel talks are with the permission of GRP President Rodrigo Duterte and with the mediation of Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Idun Tvedt.
During the online Ninth Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace on Thursday Bello revealed that back-channel talks are ongoing between the parties.
Bello said that Duterte is again “very much inclined” to revive the negotiations he scuttled in June 2017.
The former GRP chief negotiator said he is confident formal negotiations can resume within Duterte’s last 16 months in office.
Interim NDFP chief negotiator Juliet de Lima for her part told the online forum that the planned back-channel talks would resume discussions on an interim peace agreement (IPA) that includes agreements on social and economic reforms.
IPA discussions shall also include possible coordinated unilateral ceasefire declarations as well as modes for their implementation, de Lima said.
From lows of 108,000 new daily cases last July, new Covid-19 cases spiked in Europe from November last year to January this year, peaking at upwards of two million new cases daily in mid-November.
European countries have since re-imposed strict lock downs and health protocols.
Sison said no new date has yet been set for Bello and Braganza’s possible trip.
Braganza also told Kodao that until vaccinated, it would be difficult for him and Bello to plan the trip.
“Mahirap umalis na walang vaccination. Iba-iba rin ang rules hinggil sa quarantine,” he said. (It is ill-advised without being vaccinated. Rules regarding quarantines are also different.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)