The government on Thursday said it has suspended all backchannel talks with the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) to give way for a three-month review of all signed agreements related to the peace negotiations.
In a statement, Hernani Braganza, the government negotiator for backchannel talks, said they officially conveyed the suspension during a meeting in Utrecht in the Netherlands attended by NDF leaders headed by chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison.
"In a meeting... the government team also conveyed the Philippine government's decision to suspend all backchannel talks with the NDF pending the three-month review of all signed agreements related to the peace negotiations," Braganza said.
He added the meeting was witnessed by third-party facilitators from the Norwegian government led by Special Envoy for Peace Idun Tvedt.
Braganza said the suspension "does not preclude communications between the two parties if deemed necessary."
The government team flew to Utrecht to formally communicate to the NDF President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to re-schedule the proposed resumption of government's peace negotiations with the communist rebels.
The postponement has infuriated Sison who said the Duterte administration is not serious in pursuing peace talks with communist rebels.
Braganza, however, said NDF representatives "expressed willingness to keep an open mind on the President's decision and wait for the outcome of the government's review before proceeding with any peace conversation with government."
"They reiterated their commitment to all signed agreements, including those involving the planned visit of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison in the Philippines to Manila for a meeting with the President," he said.
"In turn, we extended the government panel's appreciation to the NDF's open-mindedness in coming to terms with President Duterte's decision."
Braganza said the government will utilize the three-month review period to consult instrumentalities of government and the general public about the negotiations and the substantive issues involved."
The NDF leaders, Braganza said, "expressed intention to conduct their own separate actions and activities that aim to protect the gains already achieved as a result of backchannel, informal and formal talks between the two panels."
He also said the NDF is "favorably considering" the government's invitation extended for NDF representatives to join the public consultations on the peace negotiation.
"It is our fervent hope that the consultations will help galvanize public support to peace efforts aimed at ending the armed conflict through the achievement of economic, social and political reforms," Braganza said. —KBK, GMA News