The peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines signed an agreement to forge an interim joint ceasefire during the fourth round of talks in Noordwijk, The Netherlands Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands — What the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines signed here on Wednesday was not yet a truce.

Wilma Tiamzon, NDFP peace consultant and chairperson of the reciprocal working group on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces, explained that the Agreement on an Interim Joint Ceasefire signed by the two parties was not yet a permanent or final ceasefire.

“Ibig sabihin ng interim, hindi pa yan yung permanent at final ceasefire or permanent truce. Kung hindi, ito yung enabling condition para doon sa progress ng substantive agenda (Interim means it’s not yet permanent nor is it a final ceasefire nor a permanent truce. But it gives an enabling condition on the progress of the substantive agenda),” Tiamzon told reporters at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel where the fourth round of the formal talks is being held.

She said they see the agreement as a “step forward” on the peace process.

The NDFP consultant said the agreement is based on the substantial progress of the on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.

“Dahil bumibilis yung pace na ng pag-uusap para doon sa concrete na mga agreements kaugnay ng CASER lalo na doon sa land reform ay kinakailangan magkaroon na ng paguusap papaano gagawin yungisang interim joint ceasefire agreement (Because the pace of the talks on the concrete agreements related to CASER is gaining ground, there is a need to talk about how to forge an interim joint ceasefire agreement),” she said.

Doomsayers wrong

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate who is vice chairperson of the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity lauded the peace panels on signing the agreement to forge an Interim Joint Ceasefire to further “generate goodwill and trust” in the peace process.

“These gains proved wrong the doomsayers, particularly from the failed previous administrations, and, the militarists and spoilers, in and out of the government, who are trying to derail the forward trajectory of the peace process,” Zarate said.

He said they look forward to more breakthroughs especially on the substantial agenda on CASER and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms.

Major milestone

Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said Wednesday’s signed agreement was a major milestone in the peace negotiations with the communists.

“In fact, it’s a paradigm shift on the part of the NDFP. From the very start up to now, it’s the only time they have agreed even to just discuss the issue of ceasefire,” Bello told Davao Today in an interview.

“They considered not only discussing but even arriving at a consensus,” Bello said.

He said it will still be a “talk and fight scenario” until the Parties agree on parameters, guidelines and the definition of terms.

“It won’t be effective so it’s better that we wait until we can agree on the parameters and the definition of terms so that there will be a better observance and compliance with the ceasefire agreement,” Bello added.

Duterte accepts agreement

President Rodrigo Duterte who previously laid down conditions for the peace talks to proceed accepted the agreement, Bello said.

“He accepted it and he appreciates the effort of both our Panels and hopefully, he said, we could agree on the four guidelines the soonest possible time,” Bello said.

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.

Tiamzon said the Parties will still discuss the terms, ground rules and mechanisms of the ceasefire. (

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