Jun 182013

President Benigno Aquino III has nominated the government’s chief negotiator with the National Democratic Front (NDF) as head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), two months after talks with the communist-led group were formally ended.

Aquino approved the nomination of Alexander Padilla, who serves both as government chief negotiator and PhilHealth chief operating officer, as the corporation’s president and chief executive officer last week, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte announced at a press briefing Tuesday.

Padilla has also been appointed to the Philhealth’s board of directors, she added.

But Valte said that Padilla’s nomination to the PhilHealth does not mean that the government is no longer interested in talks with communist rebels.

“We have always been open to talks with the NDF. Matagal na pong may mga ginagawang magkasabay si Usec. Padilla. The idea to divide out his work is not novel,” Valte told reporters.

“There should be no problem with this appointment. His [Padilla’s] records show that he could do different tasks,” she added.

Only last April, Padilla announced that the Philippine government will no longer return to the negotiating table with the NDF, saying that the talks were “going nowhere.”

NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni, for his part, said that it was the Aquino administration, not the communist-led group, which “dimmed” the prospects of peace due to the government’s supposed refusal to hold its end up on agreements signed by both parties decades ago.

The armed struggle being pursued by the NDF in the Philippines, through its armed wing, the New People’s Army, is one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies, spanning more than four decades. — RSJ, GMA News

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