CPP-NPA declares 7-day ceasefire ahead of Oslo peace talks

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People's Army (NPA) on Friday, August 19, declared a 7-day unilateral ceasefire days before peace talks are set to resume between communist rebels and the Philippine government.

In a statement, the CPP-NPA said the ceasefire will take effect starting 12:01 am on Sunday, August 21, until 11:59 pm of Saturday, August 27.

It will cover the 5-day peace talks to be held in Oslo, Norway, between the negotiating panels of the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the CPP's political arm.

"This ceasefire declaration is encouraged by the GRP's facilitation of the release of nearly all NDFP consultants who are set to participate in peace negotiations in the course of the next several months," the CPP-NPA said.

Earlier on Friday, NDFP consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Tiamzon were temporarily released to allow them to participate in the Oslo talks.

The CPP said it is anticipating the release of the rest of the NDFP consultants who are expected to join the negotiations.

The group also reiterated its "deep appreciation of the determined efforts of GRP President [Rodrigo] Duterte to push forward and accelerate the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as a means of addressing the roots of the civil war in the Philippines."

"We hope that this ceasefire declaration will be reciprocated by the GRP as a show of all-out determination to move forward with peace negotiations," it added.

The CPP also said that it is open to discuss the possibility of a longer ceasefire once all political prisoners are released.

In a statement sent to media early Saturday August 20, Palace Communication Secretary Martin Andanar said the President "has already walked an extra mile for peace" and that Duterte is glad the CPP-NPA "showed a similar gesture of goodwill as a sign of sincerity" to the peace talks.

"We therefore feel optimistic that the mutual efforts of both sides would lead to fruitful negotiations that could pave the way for substantive discussions in the hope of putting an end to one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies," he added.

But Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto urged the government to match the 7-day ceasefire with its own declaration of a longer ceasefire.

“Any pause in fighting is good news. But the way forward is for the government to respond with its own ceasefire, one that is longer, so that when it is the CPP's turn to respond and they do so positively, then it will have the effect of extending the duration of the truce," Recto said. 

He added: "What the people want is peace that is sustained. Hopefully, that will be the end result of the peace talks." – Rappler.com