NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands — It will still be a talk and fight scenario as peace negotiators of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines agreed to forge an interim joint ceasefire agreement.
After four days of both formal and informal talks, the two parties signed an agreement on an Interim Joint Ceasefire here, Wednesday.
The agreement directs the respective Ceasefire Committees to meet “in-between formal talks, to discuss, formulate, and finalize the guidelines and ground rules for the implementation of this agreement.”
The guidelines will include rules governing the presence of armed units and elements of both Parties in local communities and the creation of buffer zones.
The Parties shall also have an agreement on “prohibited, hostile, and provocative acts.”
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza lauded the Ceasefire Committees of both Parties for coming up with the agreement.
Dureza stressed that the work has only begun, but described the agreement as a “step closer to our dream.”
“This is a very important step. As we know we can sign many agreements on paper but what we see in the ground is what matters most,” he said.
“It is there in the ground that we are faced with a lot of challenges and that’s… one of the reasons why we entered into this,” he said.
NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said the negotiators were “wise and flexible enough” to come up with the agreement.
“I think the negotiators were wise and flexible enough to make revision for what some people expected would break up the negotiations,” he said.
Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III called the agreement a “major breakthrough” in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
“After 30 years, finally we did something significant to move the process forward,” he said.
Part of President Rodrigo’s guidelines to his government panel was to have a document on a ceasefire.
Both Parties deemed it necessary to sign the agreement in order to show “goodwill and trust” in the negotiations. It said the agreement will provide an enabling environment for the “eventual and early signing” of the “heart and soul” of the peace process which is the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.
They also believe that the agreement will lead to a forging of a “more stable and comprehensive” Joint Ceasefire Agreement.
The interim joint ceasefire agreement will be effective until the Parties forge a permanent ceasefire agreement under the last substantive agenda of the peace negotiations, the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.
In an interview with the media, NDFP peace panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said there will still be a talk and fight scenario as the Parties only agreed to “make an agreement on the joint interim ceasefire.
“There’s a big difference.An agreement on joint interim ceasefire, ibig sabihin it’s an agreement. We agreed to make a joint agreement,” he said.
Agcaoili said both Parties already have their respective drafts on joint bilateral ceasefire. He said they will work out on the signing of the bilateral ceasefire agreement depending on the developments of the CASER.
Agcaoili admitted that the past three days were difficult, but he said they have exercised “maximum flexibility.”
“While it was really a difficult three days, it was touch and go for a while on both sides I think, but the NDFP really exercised maximum flexibility without abandoning principles to be able to come up with an agreement to agree to make an interim joint ceasefire agreement,” he said.
He said the agreement of the parties will pave the road towards a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
Sison also reiterated their willingness to co-found the Federal Republic of the Philippines. He said it does not mean that they are surrendering to the government as they make substantial agreements on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms.
The fourth round of talks is the first formal talks where there was no ceasefire in place on either party. (davaotoday.com)