By JEOFFREY MHAR LARUA
BAGUIO CITY — “We will be flexible.”
This was the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel’s response to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)’s last minute refusal to issue a unilateral ceasefire early Friday, March 31 in preparation for the fourth round of peace negotiations.
In a statement, NDFP chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said that the GRP’s non-issuance of a unilateral ceasefire constituted an “unexpected departure” from the March 11 backchannel agreements where both parties agreed to restore their respective truces before the start of the next round of peace negotiations this April.
Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said in a Palace briefing early Friday that there is no reason to issue a unilateral ceasefire since the President is more keen in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
Meanwhile, for NDFP, the negotiating panel is willing to be flexible and open to discuss the terms of the bilateral agreement with the GRP.
“The NDFP believes it is possible at the soonest time to have a bilateral ceasefire agreement that conforms to the position that simultaneous and reciprocal declarations of unilateral ceasefire can be agreed upon and bound by the Joint Statement at the end of the fourth round of formal talks,” said Agcaoili.
The fourth round of peace negotiations between the two parties is set on April 2-6 in The Netherlands.
The Communist panel also ensured that serious concerns raised during the previous unilateral ceasefires will be addressed to ensure that any agreements in the future would be “more effective.”
“Both parties will continue to hammer out a single joint ceasefire document that will take a longer time to forge in conjunction with the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and the amnesty and release of all political prisoners as listed by the NDFP,” the statement read. # nordis.net