DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 June) — Government is reciprocating the National Democratic Front’s (NDF) declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable government forces to focus their attention on the war against terror groups by also declaring it will not mount offensive operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) to pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and other agreements.
In a statement published on the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) on Sunday, GRP peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III said both parties’ declaration to abstain from engaging their respective forces would “pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and
disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace.”
He said the “voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF” of supporting the government against terrorist groups such as the Maute, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines, augur well for the continuation of the stalled 5th round of talks.
In a statement on June 16, 2017, NDF chair Fidel Agcaoili said he made the recommendation to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that communist forces halt offensives but maintain defensive operations against Maute, Abu Sayyaf, and Ansar Al Khilafah Philippines (AKP).
“For all forces to be able to concentrate against Maute, Abu Sayyaf and AKP groups, the NDFP has recommended to the CPP to order all other NPA units in Mindanao to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), provided that the GRP order the AFP and PNP likewise to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the NPA and people’s militia,” he said.
Bello said this mutual declaration provides for the needed enabling environment favorable to move the peace negotiations forward.
He assured that government will continue to adhere to mutually acceptable principles enunciated in The Hague Joint Declaration and maintained the GRP recommits its adherence to all previously signed agreements, including specifically, but not limited to, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
“Furthermore, the Philippine government commits to continue to maintain this needed enabling environment in step with the NDF’s own commitment to do the same,” he said.
Both parties were supposed to take up the ceasefire and Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) in the fifth round scheduled on May 27 to June 2 in The Netherlands, but GRP did not participate “for lack of compelling reason,” following the NDFP’s instruction to NPA units to intensify offensives across the country following President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23.
The GRP and NDF peace panels signed on April 5 an interim joint ceasefire agreement which will take effect only upon the approval and signing of guidelines and ground rules. The panels were set to discuss the guidelines and ground rules during the fifth round of formal talks. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)