(Update)Interim joint ceasefire deal sealed

MANILA� Peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) sealed an agreement on an interim joint ceasefire, leading to a comprehensive settlement of the 48-year insurgency, Chief Peace negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday said.

He said both parties also moved fast to conclude provisions on a draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) meant to address the root causes of the armed conflict.

The talks primarily scheduled on April 2 was delayed for the next day after President Rodrigo Duterte alerted GRP panel and lay down four conditions.

The four conditions President Duterte set before the start of the 4th round of peace talks in The Netherlands were immediate release of captured police and military personnel, bilateral ceasefire agreement, the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement; a stop to the alleged extortion activities of rebels; and the non-recognition of any territorial claim made by the communists.

The ceasefire takes effect as soon as the guidelines and ground rules are approved. The guidelines will govern such areas as the presence of armed groups in local communities, creation of buffer zones, prohibited, hostile and provocative acts including the collection of revolutionary taxes; and undertaking of joint socio-economic projects.

Also contemplated in the agreement is the formation of a Joint Ceasefire Committee and the prospective role of a third party in ceasefire monitoring and other ceasefire mechanisms in the implementation of the ceasefire, including the handling of complaints and alleged violations.

Matters regarding a single government authority and taxation shall be discussed and resolved in forging the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms within the framework of the proposed Federal Republic of the Philippines, the joint agreement statedThe Joint Ceasefire Agreement shall be deemed interim until a permanent ceasefire agreement is forged pursuant to a Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces, the agreement further provided.

The agreement was hammered out following marathon informal conversations among the panel members.

At the opening of the formal talks on Monday, Bello welcomed the openness of the NDF to forge an agreement on joint interim ceasefire that will accompany our peace negotiations throughout, a ceasefire that marches in step with the discussion of the socio-economic reforms that will address the root causes of armed conflict.

A separate formal meeting is also set today (Wednesday Netherlands time) to harmonize provisions on the draft CASER which provides among others free distribution of land to landless farmers.

Source: Philippines News Agency