NDFP, GRP could ‘talk while fighting’

NDFP meets GRP for the third round of peace talks. AlterMidya Photo

By BicolToday.com staff

LEGAZPI CITY, 03February2017 (BicolToday.com) – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) assured the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) that the recently announced termination of the NDFP’s unilateral ceasefire does not mean the termination of the peace negotiations.

NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili gave this assurance as he formally notified the GRP of the termination of the revolutionary forces’ unilateral ceasefire declared on 28 August 2016.

Agcaoili said the termination was prompted mainly by the failure of the GRP to amnesty and release close to 400 political prisoners, and its use of the unilateral ceasefire declaration as a cover for state security forces to engage in hostile actions, provocations or movements, surveillance and other offensive operations in the guise of peace and development, civil-military, peace and order, anti-drug operations and humanitarian missions.

Agcaoili reminded GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III that both of them have had the experience of “talking while fighting,” especially during the time of President Fidel Ramos.

Agcaoili said they succeeded in forging 12 agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the first item in the substantive agenda, which was drafted and signed under Ramos’ term and later approved in the third month of the Estrada regime.

Another important accord signed during Ramos’ time was The Hague Joint Declaration, which is the framework agreement of the peace negotiations that defines the purpose and objective of the talks, the principles guiding the peace negotiations, the items in the substantive agenda and the modalities of the negotiations.

According to The Hague Joint Declaration, the peace talks’ guiding principles are national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, and the items in the substantive agenda are human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

Still another was the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which assures persons involved in the peace negotiations of exemption from harrasment, surveillance and arrest.

Bello regrets that the New People’s Army (NPA) has decided to withdraw their unilateral ceasefire effective 10 February 2017.

The Government Panel negotiating peace with the National Democratic Front firmly believes that the unilateral ceasefire declared by both parties in August last year was instrumental in moving the peace process forward. The ceasefire has also provided our people the opportunity to participate in the bigger peace table, enabling them to voice out their positions on the ongoing negotiations.

Hence, despite the NPA’s withdrawal of their ceasefire declaration, the Government Peace Panel has recommended to the President that we stand by our unilateral ceasefire.

“We look forward to meeting with our NDF counterparts for the fourth round of talks in April and to discuss the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement on February 22, as agreed upon during the third round of talks held in Rome,” Bello said.

“It is our belief that such ceasefire agreement would set the ground rules on cessation of hostilities that could minimize, if not eliminate, the armed violence that affects communities,” Bello added.

In the meantime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall continue to provide protection and relief from the potential renewal of violence resulting from the NPA’s recent declaration according to Bello.

“We shall also endeavour to continue the peace-building and development efforts in conflict areas with local government units at the forefront, supported by national agencies in the delivery of basic services to our people,” he said. [BicolToday.com]


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