Bishops from various religious denominations n Mindanao called on President Rodrigo Duterte to continue the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)ce

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Various groups lauded the resumption of the peace talks as agreed by the government and the National Democratic Front during the two-day informal talks held in Utrecht, The Netherlands from March 10 to 11.

Fr. Benjamin E. Alforque, MSC, convenor of peace group Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace said they are elated with the resumption of the talks.

“We thank the GRP and NDFP for agreeing to continue the peace talks, to re-institute their respective unilateral ceasefires, to work towards the completion of the substantive agenda on social and economic reforms, move towards the political and constitutional reforms and work out an agreement on a mutual bilateral ceasefire,”Alforque said in a statement Monday.

The group also thanked all parties who supported the call to resume the talks and urged them to continue to monitor the progress of the talks and give their support for the positive outcomes.

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the continuation of the peace negotiation “is a positive development.”

“Both sides strive to address the root causes of the armed conflict through agreements on socioeconomic, political and constitutional reforms. Forging these agreements stand to benefit the people and the nation,” Bayan said in a statement Sunday.

All-out war

However, Alforque said they are concerned over President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent order to government troops to use all available assets, including bombs, in fighting the NPA and treating civilians as collateral damage.

“We would like to remind the President that under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), actions that harm or threaten civilian communities are prohibited,” he said.

He also urged the government and the NDFP to “stick it out together for the sake peace and the interests of the people.”

“Outstanding issues such as the release of political prisoners, human rights violations and the militarization and displacement of communities should be resolved,” he added.

Progressive lawmaker Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna Partylist hoped the resumption of talks will advance the gains achieved by both Parties during the last three rounds of talks, particularly in the socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms that seeks to address the root causes of the five-decade old armed conflict in the country.

Joint statement

In a two-page joint statement issued Sunday, 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 also 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.

An interim bilateral ceasefire agreement would also be discussed and signed by the government and the NDFP on their 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 of each Parties to have a more stable mechanisms to monitor and prevent tensions that might trigger hostilities. The move to free political prisoners are also being worked on by the GRP.

Compelling reason

Zarate said the people’s quest for a just and lasting peace is a compelling reason to continue with the peace negotiations.

“It should trump any and all attempts by the saboteurs and militarists in the government to derail our peoples’ aspirations,” Zarate, who is vice-chair of the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, added.

Meanwhile, Bayan said the government should “recall its all-out war declaration, stop the militarization of communities and end human rights violations.”

It said: “the people will continue to fight for fundamental change and demand the same from Duterte himself who promised change almost a year ago.”(

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