Gov’t, Reds agree to resume peace talks

ZAMBOANGA CITY-The government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) have agreed to resume the stalled peace talks in April following a two-day backdoor channeling negotiations in Utrecht, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said on Sunday.

"I am pleased to announce that the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front ( CPP-NPA-NDF), which broke down weeks ago, are now back on track again," Dureza said in a statement.

"At the same time, a unilateral ceasefire that was also earlier terminated is deemed restored and reinstated but will be made effective only as soon as the respective forces of both sides are duly informed but definitely before the next round of talks in April 2017," he added.

Both the government and CPP-NPA-NDF terminated last month their unilateral ceasefires following accusations of insincerity and atrocities.

President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the ceasefire after the communist rebels launched a series of attack against soldiers in Mindanao--a move seen to pressure the government to release at least 400 political prisoners.

The CPP-NPA-NDF also terminated its own declaration of ceasefire on February 10.

Dureza said the restored unilateral ceasefire "is a prelude to an interim bilateral ceasefire that needs further meetings between the two sides to determine and agree on rules, necessary guidelines and mechanisms."

Dureza said the effectivity of the joint agreement on safety and immunity guarantees (JASIG) that was also ordered terminated by the President has been restored to enable the NDF consultants and their staff who were in jail or otherwise constrained, to physically surface and join in the peace work.

Dureza said the President is fully aware of the development of the informal talks.

"President Duterte himself closely monitored the efforts taken by the negotiators while in Utrecht in the Netherlands in bringing about an early breakthrough in the talks with the facilitation by the Royal Norwegian Government," he said. The informal talks took place on March 10 to 11.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice-chair of the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, welcomed the breakthrough in the peace talks between the GRP and the communist rebels.

"This is a very welcome positive development and we hope this will further advance the concrete gains achieved in the last three rounds of talks, particularly in the socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms that aim to address the root causes of the five-decade old armed conflict in our country," he said in a statement on Sunday.

Earlier, the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation, Unity had approved House Resolution 769 for the formal resumption of the peace negotiations with at least 140 solons signing it.

"Indeed, our peoples' long quest for a just and lasting peace in our country should always be a compelling reason to forge ahead with the peace negotiations; it should trump any and all attempts by the saboteurs and militarists in the government to derail our peoples' aspirations,"Zarate added.

Source: Philippines News Agency