President Rodrigo Duterte has abolished the government’s peace panel for negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front to pave the way for localized peace talks.
“The termination of the appointments of the members of the government negotiating panel will pave the way for the creation of an inclusive panel that will supervise localized peace engagements,” presidential adviser on the peace process Carlito Galvez said.
The composition of the new panel will follow the Colombian model to include representatives from different sectoral groups, local government units, and the military, whose presence, Galvez said, are “essential” to the peace talks.
NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, however, immediately rejected the prospect of localized peace negotiations.
“The leadership of the revolutionary movement has firmly decided against engaging in localized peace talks. Every command of the New People’s Army has reiterated this decision in their statements and actions,” Agcaoili told Manila Standard in an interview.
“They [government] should not be disappointed when no command of the NPA responds to their call as has been happening since they started talking about localized peace talks. All they have and will have to show are fake surrender ceremonies,” Agcaoili added.
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NPA responds to their call as has been happening since they started talking about localized peace talks. All they have and will have to show are fake surrender ceremonies,” Agcaoili added.
In the March 18 order signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the President terminated the services of Labor chief Silvestre Bello III as government chief negotiator, and panel members Rene Sarmiento, Angela Trinidad, and Antonio Arellano.
Medialdea said the decision was reached “in view of the termination of the peace negotiations with the CPP-NDF-NPA pursuant to Proclamation No. 360.”
Galvez, for his part, expressed confidence that the new panel to be formed will have better chances of achieving breakthroughs in the peace talks.
“We will reconstitute the panel with the whole-of-nation approach we are advocating to achieve inclusive and sustainable peace,” he said.
The President likewise ordered a review of all past agreements signed by the government panel with the NDF.
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Since Duterte took office in 2016, there have been four rounds of talks between the two parties.
Formal negotiations, along with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, were terminated by the President in November 2017.
“For 32 years, we did not gain anything from the talks, and it is being used by the CPP-NPA as a leverage for them to strengthen their forces and take advantage of the sincerity of the government,” Galvez said.
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