Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who serves as government peace panel chair, said the backchannel talks are in preparation for the formal resumption of peace negotiations.
Edd Gumban
Government holds backchannel talks with Reds
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - April 25, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines —  To enable the peace talks with communist rebels to begin at the soonest time possible, the government peace panel is holding back-channel negotiations with the National Demo-cratic Front (NDF).

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who serves as government peace panel chair, said the backchannel talks are in preparation for the formal resumption of peace negotiations.

“Actually there have been (backchannel) talks already with them (NDF). So we expect formal talks to start anytime now. That is the purpose of the backchannel,” Bello said yesterday.

The NDF is the umbrella organization representing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its guerrilla arm the New People’s Army (NPA) in peace talks with the government.

Bello said the backchannel talks will help in enabling the government peace panel to comply with the President’s directive to come out with a peace agreement with communist rebels within 60 days.

“You know for a fact that the President gave a timeline and although it is quite a tall order, we have to comply with that timeline,” Bello said.

Bello said he is hopeful the government and the NDF can finally forge a peace agreement within two months.

Prior to the formal restart of talks, Bello said the peace panel will seek an interim peace agreement with the NDF.

“This interim peace agreement will be coupled with a coordinated unilateral ceasefire (CUC). Then we will be talking also about possible proclamation of amnesty subject to concurrence of Congress,” he said.

Bello said the communist rebels have not set any precondition for the resumption of the peace talks.

“There is no precondition, but we have to agree that both parties should provide the talks with an enabling environment,” Bello said.

Crisis, exploitation, plunder

According to CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, peace negotiations have become even more pressing due to the economic crisis, imperial exploitation and plunder of the country.

Sison made the remarks recently during the advance celebration of the NDF’s 45th founding anniversary in Amsterdam.

Sison stressed “the broadest unity is vital to defend national democracy and justice.”

Sison related how the NDF has helped build the local organs of political power at the barangay, municipal or city, district and provincial levels in 73 of the 81 provinces of the Philippines to constitute “the people’s democratic government.”

Sison said the organs of political power are the political structures and formations that serve as weapons to defend the people and communities against oppressive landlords, big business plunderers and land grabbers and the military.

Juliet de Lima, member of the NDF peace negotiating panel, underscored the importance of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) for achieving a just and lasting peace. 

De Lima said CASER would be the key to solving the root causes of the armed conflict – poverty, unemployment, backwardness and underdevelopment.?De Lima emphasized the forging of the CASER has been proven to be the most difficult, since its core consists of implementing genuine land reform and free distribution of land to the landless, rural development and national industrialization.

In the anniversary celebra-tion, a video-documentary, “Inside the New People’s Army” produced by the Redfish Media Collective in Berlin, was shown. 

The film showed how the NPA guerrillas are organizing the people and their communities in Mindanao.

In a related development, the CPP slammed the military for claiming the 15-year-old boy killed during an encounter with the NPA in Davao del Sur was a child combatant. – With Jose Rodel Clapano

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