By Antonio L. Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – Despite the cancellation of the 5th round of talks between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the Netherlands, the informal bilateral consultations between the working groups of both panels will continue in the Philippines for the “eventual resumptions” of the negotiations.
In a statement posted on the NDFP website on May 29, NDFP panel chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili pointed out that the respective working groups of both parties can continue holding the bilateral consultations “because the peace negotiations are still on.”
The GRP withdrew from the 5th round of talks that were supposedly scheduled for May 27 to June 2 after seeing “no compelling reason” to continue their participation in the talks, following the CPP’s pronouncement urging its armed wing, the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), to launch more offensives across the country with declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
Agcaoili added that all NDFP panel members and consultants who composed the bilateral teams of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) on social and economic reforms and Reciprocal Working Group on the Political and Constitutional Reforms should “remain free and unhindered to go about their work.”
Despite the setback, he said that all previously signed agreements and agreed processes and conditions for the peace process remain “binding, operational and in effect”, most especially the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
He said the NDFP was assured by the GRP panel chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III that it would uphold JASIG, which prohibits the state forces from arresting any person covered by it and cannot be charged in courts“ to be able to freely participate and promote the peace process in the country.”
Bello told reporters covering the 5th rounds in the Netherlands that the cancellation was just a temporary setback and that the respective committees will continue to operate so that they will be ready to operate once the talks resume.
“It should not be considered as the end of the process. It should in fact encourage both parties to find ways of getting back into the course of the peace process,” he said.
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