DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 June) – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) urged the government (GRP) to resume the fifth round of formal negotiations, after it was canceled when the latter withdrew for “lack of compelling reason.”
In a statement issued on Friday, NDFP chair Fidel Agcaoili said both parties must heed 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.”
He said NDFP panel members and other personnel involved in peace negotiations must be allowed to return to the Philippines to do consultations in preparation for the fifth round of talks.
At the 119th founding anniversary of the Philippine Navy at Sasa Wharf in Davao City on May 31, President Rodrigo R. Duterte warned he would rearrest NDFP consultants who are released on bail if the New People’s Army 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 nonsense).”
He said the communists will never join the Maute Group.
The fifth round of talks did not push through after the GRP peace panel withdrew its participation, with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza citing, among others, an increase in attacks by the NPA throughout the country.
NDFP peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili reiterated the their willingness to cooperate with the government in fighting terrorism in the country perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, which “intimidate, terrorize and harm civilians solely or mainly in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
Clashes between government forces and the Maute group erupted in Marawi City on May 23.
Duterte responded by placing Mindanao under martial law.
Agcaoili said the NDFP and GRP must be determined to counteract these terrorist groups which he linked to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and are 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. It 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 the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.
The interim joint ceasefire “aims to provide a conducive environment for the GRP and NDFP negotiations, encourage the forging of a more stable and comprehensive Joint Ceasefire Agreement and provide an enabling environment for the eventual and early signing of CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms).” (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)