CPP to Duterte: Let's discuss joint ceasefire deal

MANILA, Philippines – The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) urged President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, February 19, to send the negotiating panels to The Netherlands this week for a previously arranged side meeting to discuss a bilateral ceasefire arrangement.

The CPP said it is committed to forging a joint agreement that will put in place common rules for the military and the communist armed wing New People's Army (NPA).

The group said it will also facilitate the immediate release of 6 prisoners of war as a "positive gesture."

"If... President Durterte decides to send his negotiating panel and emissaries to the upcoming scheduled talks between the ceasefire committees, negotiations for a bilateral ceasefire agreement can proceed as scheduled on February 22-27 in The Netherlands," the CPP said in a statement on Sunday.

"The Party and the [NPA] reiterate their support for efforts to forge a bilateral ceasefire agreement. The revolutionary forces are encouraged by the previous statements of President Duterte that all political prisoners will be released within 48 hours once the bilateral ceasefire agreement is signed," the CPP added.

Duterte scrapped the talks after the NPA terminated its unilateral ceasefire to end a 5-month-old peace with the military. 

Based on latest revelations, the National Democratic Front (NDF) had sent "signals" during the 3rd round of talks in Rome that the NPA was already inclined to end the ceasefire. The situation on the ground was growing untenable because of allegations of ceasefire abuses coming from both the NPA and the military. 

The government negotiators urged the NDF to fast-track talks on a bilateral ceasefire agreement that will put in place rules. The NDF supposedly hesitated but was eventually persuaded to discuss it in a February 22-25 side meeting in Utrecht. 

Talks won't be easy, but the CPP said it is committed to forging a deal. One of the longstanding demands of the NPA is for the military to stay out of 500 villages, something that the military said it will not do. 

"We anticipate that negotiations concerning the terms of reference of a bilateral ceasefire agreement will be most difficult. The revolutionary forces are bound by principle to assert the withdrawal of the AFP's operating troops from areas under the sway of the revolutionary government," the CPP said. 

"However difficult, the revolutionary forces are willing to work with the GRP negotiators to hammer out a bilateral ceasefire agreement that will be mutually acceptable and enforceable."

The CPP vowed to facilitate the release of the following 6 prisoners of war:

"The CPP earnestly encourages him (Duterte) to do so. He would surely not want to set aside the achievements attained during the first 3 rounds of GRP-NDFP peace talks and waste the opportunity to leave a legacy of peace," the CPP said. – Rappler.com