DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Communist Party of the Philippines is expected to 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) set on April 2-6 in The Netherlands.
In a statement, the CPP announced it will issue a unilateral ceasefire before the fourth round of talks and 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.
The CPP added that it is anticipating the release of 19 elderly and sick political prisoners and five detained NDFP consultants as agreed by both Parties in Utrecht.
The CPP said the determination of the government and the NDFP to continue the talks and accelerate the negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) can result to a completion of the agreements “within the year through earnest negotiations.”
“There is pressing need to complete these agreements especially in the face of mounting mass actions by workers, peasants and other oppressed sectors calling for genuine land reform, higher wages, job security, decent housing and increased social spending,” the CPP said.
“Through peace negotiations, the Duterte government and the NDFP can unite on addressing the pressing socio-economic problems confronting the Filipino people amid the worsening crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system and the global capitalist system,” it added.
The CPP admitted that while they support the forging of a bilateral ceasefire, they are anticipating “difficult negotiations.”
According to the Joint Statement signed on March 11 in Utrecht, 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.
“In forging the interim bilateral ceasefire agreement, the Parties shall take due consideration of the issues and concerns raised by each Party in relation to the previous 6-month (August 2016 to February 2017) unilateral ceasefire of the other Party. In the meantime, the Parties agree to reinstate their respective unilateral ceasefires which shall take effect before the scheduled fourth round of talks in April 2017 as soon as their respective forces shall have been informed,”it added.
Prior to President Rodrigo Duterte’s cancellation of the talks on February 4, following the announcement that the CPP and NPA will lift its unilateral ceasefire agreement, a meeting between the GRP and NDFP was already scheduled on February 22-25, specifically to discuss a bilateral ceasefire agreement. The meeting was agreed upon by the parties after the successful third round of talks in Rome, Italy last January.
The government peace panel believes that a bilateral ceasefire agreement “would set the ground rules on cessation of hostilities that could minimize, if not eliminate, the armed violence that affects communities.”
However, the CPP and NPA cited among the reasons for lifting their unilateral ceasefire the unfulfilled obligations of releasing political prisoners and encroachment of government troops in territories claimed by the Communists.
Release of prisoners of war
Meanwhile, the CPP said at least four other prisoners of war are set to be released by the NPAs in Surigao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and Bukidnon province.
“Their releases are being impeded by ongoing military and police operations in the area. The CPP urges the local commands of the AFP and PNP to stand down and coordinate with third-party facilitators to pave the way for the releases,” it said.
Two members of the Cafgu Active Auxiliary were released Friday by the NPAs in Mati City. Rene Doller and Carl Mark Nucos were captured by the NPA last February 14 in Lupon, Davao Oriental. (davaotoday.com)