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NDFP urges gov’t peace-negotiating panel to continue fifth round of formal negotiations

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By Antonio Colina IV

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) urged the government (GRP) peace-negotiating panel to return immediately to the peace table for the fifth round of formal negotiations, after it was cancelled when the latter withdrew for “lack of compelling reason.”

In a statement issued on Friday, NDFP chair Fidel Agcaoili said both parties must heed to the clamor of the people to continue the talks and demand for “social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.”

NDFP negotiating panel representative Fidel Agcaoili (FEDERICO CRUZ / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

NDFP negotiating panel representative Fidel Agcaoili
(FEDERICO CRUZ / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

He said that NDFP’s panelists, legal and political consultants, as well as other personnel in peace negotiations must be allowed to return to the Philippines to do consultations as preparation for fifth round of talks.

At the 119th founding anniversary of the Philippine Navy at the Sasa Wharf in Davao City on May 31, President Duterte warned to rearrest the NDFP consultants who are released on bail if the New People’s Army (NPA) joins the Maute Group.

But Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison told reporters covering the 5th rounds in The Netherlands, “Kalookohan yan (That’s non-sense).”

He said the communists will never join the Maute Group.

The fifth rounds did not push through after the GRP peace panel withdrew its participation, with Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (PAPP) Jesus Dureza citing as reasons noticeable upscale of incidents of offensive attacks by the NPAs throughout the country; the seeming perception of the bigger public that these NPA operations are in open and public defiance of President Duterte who has consistently accommodated them in unprecedented ways; the renewed surfacing of public apprehension questioning the sincerity of the CPP/NPA/NDF in the peace talks; the public admissions of some panel members of the CPP/NPA NDF leaders that they have no control over their forces on the ground; the sudden and perceptible erosion of public support to the peace talks with strong messages received from the public to altogether stop peace negotiations; the clamor now to pursue instead localized peace talks; and the latest and recent President’s public statements that he will no longer sign agreements with the CPP/NPA/NDF if all of these will continue and not addressed.

Agcaoili also reiterated the NDFP’s willingness to cooperate with the government in fighting the terrorism in the country perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, who “intimidate, terrorize and harm civilians solely or mainly in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

The Maute group clashed with government forces in Marawi City since May 23 that triggered the President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

He said the NDFP and GRP must be determined to counteract these terrorist groups who he linked to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and allegedly supported by the US-Central Intelligence Agency and other foreign entities.

“The level of counteraction against terrorism, as well as the nature, scope and duration must be appropriate and proportional to the degree of danger and threat and/or harm by the terrorist group concerned in Marawi City,” he said.

He said terrorism must be stopped to restore normalcy and ensure respect for human rights as soon as possible.

“In specific areas of cooperation and coordination, the armed forces of the GRP and NDFP shall be bound by a ceasefire agreement between them, pending the issuance of ceasefire declarations that are unilateral but simultaneous and reciprocal,” he said.

During the fourth round of talks on April 3 to 6 in The Netherlands, both parties signed an agreement on an interim joint ceasefire, which will take effect upon the approval and signing of the ground rules and will be effective until a permanent ceasefire agreement is forged as part of Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

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