Backchannel talks with NDF delayed anew after NPA attack in NorthCot

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 20 July 20) – The attacks the communist guerillas launched in North Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao were among the reasons why the Philippine government decided to suspend the backchannel talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Europe, a top government executive said on Thursday.

In an interview over Catholic-run radio station DXND here on Thursday, Secretary Jesus Dureza, of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said it was a collective decision of the Philippine government to postpone the informal talks with the NDF scheduled this week in Norway.

Dureza said that the peace panel led by Labor Secretary Sylvester Bello II was told not to proceed to Norway hours after the incident in Arakan, North Cotabato, wherein members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were injured.

Dureza said five PSG members were wounded when fired at by communist guerillas that set up road blocks and highway inspection in Barangay Gambodes in Arakan town Wednesday.

“The incident in Arakan, North Cotabato has a great impact [on the peace talks]. The PSGs don’t usually engage with the NPAs,” he said.

The PSG convoy on its way to Cagayan de Oro City when flagged down by the rebels along the Cotabato-Bukidnon highway. The presidential guards suffered only minor injuries, according to OPAPP secretary.

Dureza said they already informed their counterpart in the NDF and the third party facilitator in Norway about the postponement of the exploratory talks.

“I called up our third party facilitator in Norway. This is the group that supports some of the expenses for the talks. I explained to them that in the meantime we won’t pursue with the backchannel talks,” he stressed.

Dureza, however, clarified that the government is not closing its doors for the possible resumption of peace talks with the NDF.

“If the atmosphere is already conducive for the peace talks, yes, we will resume our engagements with the NDF,” said Dureza.

The fifth round of formal peace talks with the NDF scheduled last May 27 to June 2 in The Netherlands was also called off by President Rodrigo Duterte. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)