MANILA - The government has sought a 3-month review of all agreements with communist rebels, during which all backchannel negotiations will be suspended, an official said Thursday.
The suspension of talks, however, "does not preclude communications between the two parties if deemed necessary," government peace negotiator Hernani Braganza said after a 3-day meeting with his counterparts with the National Democratic Front in the Utrecht.
Formal negotiations were scheduled later in June in Oslo, Norway but President Rodrigo Duterte's office said the talks were postponed to give way to consultations.
Government negotiators conveyed their 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.
Representatives from the NDF "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," Braganza said.
In a separate statement, the NDF said it "agreed that the peace negotiations continue despite the cancellation of the scheduled formal talks."
The NDF said sides "are mutually determined to overcome obstacles and impediments to the peace negotiations."
During the 3-month review, the NDF said it will conduct consultations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).
The government, for its part, will hold public consultations, which it hopes will galvanize support for the peace efforts, said Braganza.
TALKS HERE OR ABROAD?
Braganza also said that in the Utrecht meeting, the NDF reiterated its commitment to all signed agreements, including those involving the planned visit to Manila of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, for a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.
The NDF, however, said that formal peace negotiations should be held in a "foreign neutral venue" and that Norway should stay on as third party facilitator.
Duterte has been repeatedly inviting Sison, the NDFP’s chief political consultant, to come back to the Philippines following 3 decades of exile in Europe.
A face-to-face meeting in Manila between Duterte and Sison was in the works before the Philippine leader put off the resumption of formal peace talks, documents showed.
Sison, who has been on self-exile in The Netherlands since 1987, said his homecoming was still "subject to the necessary political, legal, security and technical requirements."