DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Philippine government chief peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the government will not declare a unilateral ceasefire prior to the fourth round of talks with the communists in the coming days.
Speaking before reporters in Malacañang on Friday, Bello said “(R)ight now, there is no reason to declare a unilateral ceasefire because our President is more interested in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” he said.
Bello added that the first agenda of the talks on April 2 to 6 in Noordwijk, The Netherlands will be the issue of the bilateral ceasefire agreement.
He said the government will concentrate more on having a bilateral ceasefire “where we will be assured of the lowering or ending of hostilities.”
He also said having a bilateral ceasefire agreement will “assure the parameters and terms of reference” of the ceasefire with communists.
In anticipation of a ceasefire declaration from the government, the Communist Party of the Philippines said last week it will issue a unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire not later than March 31 in support of the fourth round of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
The CPP said it “looks forward to a similar unilateral ceasefire declaration by the GRP as mutually agreed upon in the March 10-11 backchannel talks in Utrecht, in the Netherlands.”
It also urged the government to “slow down its ongoing all-out offensive military operations” to create a favorable atmosphere for the mutual ceasefire.
In a statement issued on March 25, the CPP said it supports efforts of the NDFP and GRP to forge a bilateral ceasefire but admitted that the negotiations on the matter will be “difficult.”
It denounced government troops for “its continuing campaign of aerial bombings and shelling which have caused widespread damage and fear among the peasant masses.”
“In the face of the AFP’s all-out offensives and aerial bombing campaigns, the New People’s Army is compelled to carry out tactical offensives and active defense actions in order to defend the peasant masses.”(davaotoday.com)