THE Philippine government and the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) will hold a fifth round of talks next month, government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd said on Tuesday.
This comes more than a month after the government cancelled peace negotiations with communist rebels following attacks by the insurgents against government troops in the countryside amid the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“The fifth round of talks that has been deferred will probably be realized second or third week of August,” Bello told reporters during a news conference in Malacañang.
Before the formal talks, both parties will have an informal meeting somewhere in Asia by the third or last week of July, to discuss proposed socioe conomic reforms and interim unilateral ceasefire declarations, he said.
The NDF peace wants the informal meeting in Japan but Hong Kong is also an alternative, said Bello, who is also Labor secretary.
The fifth round of talks, which was supposed to be held from May 27 to June 1 in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, was suspended by the government after “offensive” attacks by the group’s armed wing, the New People’s Army.
Bello was optimistic the two parties would be successful in bringing forth an “enduring and lasting peace for everyone.”
“In the process, there will be humps and bumps but we will not – we will stay in the course of the process because there is no alternative. This is the best legacy that our President can give to our country,” he added.
The Communist Party of the Philippines had ordered the 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 the Islamic State-linked Maute group.
Bello downplayed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s call for the government peace panel to hold off talks with the communists amid the latter’s armed attacks.
“Whenever the panel goes to the venue for the peace talks or the round of talks, we regularly consult the intelligence community of the Armed Forces of the Philippines… And the mere fact that we go to the venue of the talks is an indication that their assessment is that they are still the right persons to talk to,” he said.
Bello said skirmishes were expected because the two sides were in conflict, something the peace talks were meant to address.