The Daily Manila Shimbun


(UPDATE) Philippines won’t declare unilateral truce with Reds

March 31, 2017

The Philippine government will not declare a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels as it will agree only for a bilateral truce, chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III said on Friday.

With the Duterte administration's decision, the National Democratic Front decided not to declare its own ceasefire, contrary to its earlier pronouncement it would declare one on Friday.

Bello, who is also labor secretary, said there was no reason to declare a unilateral ceasefire with the leftist rebels.

In a statement by NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili late Friday, he said the “last minute announcement not to restore its unilateral ceasefire constitutes an unexpected departure from the March 11 backchannel agreement.”

In the agreement, Agcaoili said “both parties agreed to simultaneously reinstate their respective unilateral ceasefires before the start on April 2 of the fourth round of peace talks.”

But Agcaoili said the NDF  negotiating panel “is willing to be flexible and is open to discussing with its counterpart what kind of bilateral ceasefire agreement is desired by the GRP ( Government of the Republic of the Philippines) in place of the unilateral ceasefire.”

Agcaoili said the NDF “believes it is possible at the soonest time to have a bilateral ceasefire that conforms to some practices or experiences in UN-mediated conflicts.”

"Our President (Rodrigo Duterte) is more interested in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement," Bello said in a press conference in Malacanang.

Bello did not see the absence of a truce as an obstacle to the peace talks, which are set to resume on April 2 to 6 in the Netherlands.

"As a matter of fact, the first agenda item that we will tackle starting April 2 will be the issue of bilateral ceasefire agreement," Bello said.

"So very close, I think we should concentrate more on this more important agreement because this is where we will be assured of the lowering or ending of hostilities," he said.

He expressed hope the bilateral truce could be signed in the upcoming fourth round of talks as both sides have already exchanged their respective drafts of the parameters of the truce agreement.

Included in the proposed terms and conditions of the ceasefire are the definition of buffer zones and the collection of revolutionary tax by the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Bello said both sides would discuss the "choice of the referee" in the truce.

He said Norway, the third party facilitator in the peace process, appeared not to be interested to be the referee in the ceasefire because of its experience in Colombia.

"Apparently their (Norway) experience was not good so I think they are thinking of other countries who are also interested to be part of the ceasefire agreement. There were some countries already mentioned or are willing and in a very position to act as our referee," he said., citing Switzerland, Canada and Australia.

Aside from a bilateral truce, the government and the NDF would discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms.

“Both parties will continue to hammer out a single joint ceasefire document that will take a longer time to forge in conjunction with the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and the amnesty and release of all political prisoners as listed by the NDFP,” said Agcaoili.

The NDF is “fully prepared to craft a draft common agreement with the GRP on socio-economic reforms before the end of the year.” Celerina Monte/DMS