Philippine govt, communist rebels to resume peace talks

 12 Mar 2017 - 10:46

Philippine govt, communist rebels to resume peace talks
Members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) hold a demonstration calling for peace negotiations and social economic reforms in Manila.PHOTO: AFP.

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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines: The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front, the political front of the Communist Party of Philippines (CPP), have agreed on Sunday to resume formal peace talks.

The agreement comes after a two-day meeting by members of the peace panels of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and negotiators from the government led by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza for back channel efforts held in Utrecht, Netherlands over the weekend.

The NFDP was led by peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili and chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison along with other consultants and panel members that included Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, who were earlier allowed by the government to travel despite an order for their arrest, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Third Party Facilitator from the Royal Norwegian Government Elisabeth Slattum was also present in the meeting. 

The Inquirer quoted sources as saying that President Rodrigo Duterte gave the go-signal for the government peace panel to sign a joint statement on Saturday evening.

In the two-page joint statement, the parties announced a consensus on six points, especially on the decision to meet again for formal negotiations.

“The Parties shall continue the formal peace talks and reiterate their reaffirming of all bilateral agreements and statements made in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, including the Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),” the joint statement said.

The parties agreed that reinstating the indefinite unilateral ceasefire declarations effective before the scheduled fourth round of talks in April would help create a better atmosphere for the resumption of the stalled negotiations.

A bilateral ceasefire agreement would also be discussed and signed by the government and the NDFP in the next meetings.

“The Parties agree to forge an interim bilateral ceasefire agreement which shall take effect after the terms of reference and other considerations shall have been settled,” the statement said.

This would replace the unilateral ceasefire declarations and establish more stable mechanisms to monitor and prevent tensions that might trigger hostilities.

The peace negotiations broke down last February after government accused the rebels of ceasefire violations.

After making new peace overture last week, Duterte ordered the military and the police to use all their assets against the New People’s Army, the CPP’s armed wing, following an ambush Wednesday in Davao del Sur province that killed four police officers.