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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, January 25, 2014
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Peace pact
signing still uncertain

BY GILBERT BAYORAN

The signing of a closure agreement to the peace talks between the government and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas-Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (Tabara Paduano Group) by President Benigno Aquino is still uncertain, two years after the draft memorandum of agreement was completed.

OPPAP Undersecretary Maria Cleofe Gettie Sandoval, who met yesterday with top military commanders in Negros and Panay, said the draft closure agreement underwent a review by the Office of the President before it was forwarded to President Aquino.

Sandoval said the delay in its approval was due to the “due diligence review”.

She added that President Aquino wants the OPPAP to ensure that what will be signed in the closure agreement will be thoroughly implemented, as he scrutinized the provisions of MOA one by one.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon had earlier expressed dismay over the delay in the signing of the closure agreement.

Asked if OPPAP has a time table for the signing, Sandoval said they hope that they accomplish the due diligence that the Office of the President is looking for and that they really wanted to sign the agreement way back then.

There is no major reason or doubt on the intent between the government and the RPA-ABB (Tabara Paduano Group), it is just the staff work that they need to put into the agreement, she said.

Other agencies involved are the departments of National Defense, Justice, Agrarian Reform, Agriculture and the Environment as well as Natural Resources.

With their scheduled meeting again with the President, Sandoval said “We are hoping that we can give definite answers to all his (President Aquino) questions” for the agreement to be signed.

She thanked the RPA-ABB Tabara Paduano Group members for their patience.

Sandoval also announced the renewal of the contract this year for the RPA-ABB members to be hired as forest rangers by the DENR, in support of the livelihood component of the agreement.

Sandoval said 35 more RPA-ABB members will be hired as forest rangers, on top of the 95 included in the contract last year, most of whom are stationed in Negros island.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said they are coordinating with the RPA-ABB on the security aspect, following the assassination of one of their leaders by the New People’s Army in Panay island.

The peace talks between the government and the RPM-P/RPA-ABB began in December 2000, under the administration of then President Joseph Estrada. *GPB

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