CPP to declare ceasefire no later than March 31

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said Saturday, March 25, it is set to issue a unilateral declaration of an interim ceasefire not later than March 31.

This is in anticipation and support of "the fourth round of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) set for April 2-6 in The Netherlands."

In a press statement, the CPP said it was making the announcement following the release on Friday by the New People’s Army (NPA) of two prisoners-of-war (POWs) in Mati, Davao Oriental.

The CPP said it looks forward to a "similar unilateral ceasefire declaration" by the government, as mutually agreed upon in backchannel talks from March 10-11.

"The CPP urges the Duterte regime to order the AFP to slow down its ongoing all-out offensive military operations and aerial bombing and shelling campaigns against rural barangays, to help create a favorable atmosphere for the mutual ceasefire," the CPP statement said.

The CPP also said it "anticipates" the release by the Duterte government of 19 elderly and sick political prisoners, along with their 4 detained NDFP consultants and one comrade recently rearrested.

Revolutionary forces, the CPP said, are "encouraged" by the determination of both the NDFP and GRP to continue with peace negotiations and speed up negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms.

Earnest negotiations, the CPP said, can cause these agreements to be completed within the year.

A tenuous 5-month-old ceasefire was announced terminated by the NPA on February 1, taking effect on February 10. This happened after several skirmishes with the military. (READ: Soldiers report skirmishes with NPA in 7 areas)

"The August 28, 2016, unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire issued by the Central Committee of the CPP (CPP-CC) and the National Operations Command of the New People’s Army (NPA-NOC) is hereby terminated," NPA spokesperson Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos said in a statement at the time.

The NPA cited the alleged ceasefire abuses by the miiltary and the delayed release of political prisoners as reasons for terminating the ceasefire.

In its statement, the CPP said it also supports efforts of the NDFP and GRP to "forge a bilateral ceasefire even as it anticipates difficult negotiations.” – Rappler.com