The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) will hold their fifth round of talks in August, government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd said on Tuesday.
This comes more than a month after the fifth round of peace negotiations was suspended due to continuous attacks by rebel forces against government troops in the countryside.
In a press conference in Malacanang, Bello said: “We will probably have the—iyong naudlot na fifth round will be realized second or third week of August.”
But before the formal talks, Bello said the peace panels of government and the NDF would have an informal meeting this July somewhere in Asia.
“But before that, para maganda, we will have a good result, there will be an informal meeting with the panel, and the meeting may be in Asia or in the Philippines,” he said.
According to Bello, the NDF peace panel prefers to hold the informal meeting in Japan but said the it could be held in Hong Kong.
“Although, iyong NDF will like to have it somewhere in—they were mentioning Japan. Ang compromise ko naman—ang layo naman ng Japan—baka pwede na ang Hong Kong or the Philippines, especially so that Joma Sison will not be attending,” he said, referring to Jose Ma. Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
During the informal meeting, Bello said both peace panels would discuss issues on socio-economic reforms and the interim unilateral ceasefire.
“There will be an informal meeting and they will discuss mainly on the issue of socioeconomic reforms and iyong possible interim unilateral ceasefire. Mag-usap na sila para pagdating ng August, eh maliwanag na. And it will only be for submission to the panel for formal approval by the panels,” he said.
The fifth round of talks was supposed to be held from May 27 to June 1 in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.
The CPP ordered its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to intensify attacks in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao due to government clashes in Marawi City with a separate group, the Islamic State-inspired Maute group .
The government said that martial law was only meant to address terrorists groups like the Maute and Abu Sayyaf and that security forces were not going after the NPA.