MANILA - The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on Thursday claimed that the Philippine government has delayed the holding of backchannel talks following the collapse of official negotiations between the two parties.
"Both sides agreed to hold secret backchannel talks as early as the first week of February. For some reason, these have been delayed till now," Fidel Agcaoili, chairperson of the NDFP negotiating panel, said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said communist party leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon will lead the rebels' delegation in backchannel talks with the government.
According to Lorenzana, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza went to Europe with the Tiamzon couple and another communist leader, Vic Ladlad, for the backchannel talks.
Agcaoili's statement follows Dureza's revelation on backchannel talks.
"We have kept our end of the bargain not to reveal the plans or issue any statement that would upset these," Agcaoili said.
Dureza and Agcaoili said the backchannel talks aim to revive negotiations between the two parties.
"The objective of the backchannel is to bring about the continuation of the talks in order to hold the scheduled fourth round in April to discuss important matters, including JASIG, CASER and CAPCR," Agcaoili said.
He also said soldiers recently taken captive by the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, will be released soon.
He said the release was delayed as arrangements have yet to be worked out.
Agcaoili said they have yet to verify if the ambush of police officers in Bansalan was perpetrated by the NPA.
"On the Bansalan incident, we still have to confirm if this was done by the NPA command in the area. There are peace spoilers around," he said.
Agcaoili said there is no ongoing ceasefire and claimed that government troops are sometimes at fault.
He said the NPA suffered four casualties in an encounter in San Andres, Quezon on Tuesday.