MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte government sees "no reason" to declare a unilateral ceasefire before the next round of peace talks in early April, making it less likely that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) will declare a ceasefire this Friday, March 31.
"Right now, there is no reason to declare a unilateral ceasefire because our President is more interested in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement," said chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III on Friday, during a Palace news briefing.
Because of the government's unwillingness to declare a ceasefire soon, Bello says chances are low that the CPP will make good on their promise to declare their ceasefire on Friday, too.
National Democratic Front (NDF) chairman Fidel Agcaoili had wanted the CPP and government to release their unilateral ceasefire declarations on the same day and had even suggested it happen on March 28, date of the NPA's anniversary.
"I don't think they will declare if we do not declare...If they feel that we are not prepared to declare one then I don't think they will proceed with the declaration," said Bello.
Instead of a unilateral ceasefire, President Rodrigo Duterte prefers that the government and NDF panels focus on completing a bilateral ceasefire agreement in the 4th round of talks to be held from April 2 to 6 in the Netherlands.
Bello said the completion of this agreement was the lone marching order of the President when he and Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza met with him last Monday, March 27.
Duterte had lost faith in the peace process after receiving reports that the NPA had been attacking soldiers even before the NPA lifted their unilateral ceasefire last February 1. It was to take effect on February 10.
He then declared he would allow peace talks to resume only if there was a "compelling reason" to do so.
This "compelling reason" turned out to be a bilateral ceasefire agreement with specific features, including the CPP agreeing to stop collecting revolutionary taxes and the release of all its hostages. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.