DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Government peace negotiators are eyeing a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the National Democratic Front soon but the communist guerrillas said they were not informed officially of the timetable.
NDF negotiating panel chair Fidel Agcaoili told Davao Today in an email that they were not aware of the possible signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement within the month or early December.
“The problem is it appears that the GRP seems to be negotiating with itself. Wala naman silang pinaabot sa amin na ganyan (they did not inform us about that),” he said.
He said the government should have informed them “through formal writing or even a phone call.”
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, who is government chief negotiator in the peace talks with the communists, said a bilateral ceasefire document can be agreed upon and signed by the government and the NDF before December.
“We are talking to have the final document [signed] either by end of November or first week of December. But we are eyeing the last week of November since we need to address other concerns in the talks,” Bello said in a peace forum organized by the Rotary Club of Marikina on Saturday, Nov.5.
“We have to postpone the signing. There are still several items that need to have a consensus, such as the monitoring mechanism, the parameters of hostile acts, the definition of buffer zones,” Bello said.
Bello said the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement was postponed as there are still several issues that “need to have a consensus”.
In the August 26 Joint Statement of the GRP and NDF, the ceasefire committees of both Parties were tasked to “reconcile and develop their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral agreement within 60 days” from August 26.
In a statement on Oct. 30, Agcaoili said Bello sent a letter to him on Oct. 20 proposing both Parties to “simultaneously declare their renewed commitment to their respective unilateral indefinite ceasefire” in view of the fact that the two sides could not meet on the October 26th, the deadline to work out a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
But Agcaoili said there was no need for the NDFP to make such a simultaneous declaration with the GRP. He quoted from the declaration of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) dated Aug. 28 which specifically states that the Unilateral Declaration of Interim Ceasefire shall take effect on said date (Aug. 28) and: “will remain valid during the course of peace negotiations until superseded by a ceasefire agreement to be issued jointly by the NDFP with the GRP within the next 60 days or until a notice of termination of this ceasefire declaration takes effect 10 days after receipt of said notice by the GRP Negotiating Panel from the NDFP Negotiating Panel.”
No movement in releases of prisoners
Agcaoili said he also reminded Bello about the GRP’s commitment on the releases and Amnesty Proclamation of political prisoners in accordance with the Oslo Joint Statements of 15 June 2016, 26 August 2016 and 9 October 2016. He said that the fulfillment of such commitment would “serve as a big incentive towards accelerating the peace negotiations and forging a mutual stable ceasefire.”
NDF negotiating panel spokesperson Dan Borjal told Davao Today that there are no clear updates yet with regards to the releases of political prisoners.
He said the lawyers of the NDFP are prompt in submitting the legal requirements of the GRP with regards to the release of the prisoners.
“Masipag ang mga abugado ng NDFP at mabilis sa kanilang pagtugon sa sangkaterbang legal requirements ng GRP pero napakabagal ng aksyon ng kabila. Para bang sadyang pinadadaan sa butas ng karayom. Very irritating na ang nangyayari (The lawyers of the NDF are hardworking and religious in submitting so many legal requirement by the government, but the action by the other Party is very slow. It seems they are letting us pass through needle’s hole. What’s happening is very irritating),” he said.
Aside from the release of political prisoners, the NDF also cites reports from the NPA of the “violations of the government ceasefire”.
“There are persistent reports from regional NPA commands of GRP violations of its own unilateral ceasefire stating that AFP troops continue to make incursions into the territory of the NPA in the guise of civic action and anti-drug operations,” Agcaoili said.
“Such military operations only serve to heighten tensions and serve as disincentive to forging a more stable bilateral ceasefire,” he added.
But Bello said the government is eyeing to release prisoners “within this month as part of confidence-building measures in the peace process.”
“Releasing of prisoners based on humanitarian reasons is on its way within this month… This is in line with the previous pronouncement of President Duterte on the releases. We are asking for some time from the NDF and the public since the releases must undergo judicial processes,” Bello said.
Bello is also optimistic that peace talks will have positive developments under the Duterte administration. (davaotoday.com)