Philippine government, communist rebels reach interim truce deal

April 6, 2017 12:30 pm

Philippine
government and rebel negotiators take part in peace talks organized by
the Dutch government, in the Dutch town of Noordwijk aan Zee, April 2,
2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippines’ government
and communist rebels in the country say they have agreed on an interim
truce during ongoing peace negotiations in the Netherlands.

Government
negotiators and those of the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP) announced on Wednesday that they had signed a
document titled the Agreement on an Interim Joint Ceasefire in the
western Dutch town of Noordwijk aan Zee.
Both delegations also
said in a joint press conference in the Dutch city that the temporary
ceasefire would take effect once the two warring sides had ironed out
the guidelines and ground rules, adding that the parameters would then
be effective until a permanent truce was reached.
The government
of President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier threatened to step up attacks
on the rebel group following an escalation of deadly clashes that
erupted earlier this year between fighters from the New People’s Army
(NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) —
an NDFP affiliate — and the government troops.
“This is another
step closer to our dream. There are still many steps that we have to
work on but this is a very important step,” said Jesus Dureza, the
presidential adviser on the peace process, during the presser in
Noordwijk aan Zee.
Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the CPP, for his part, also congratulated both sides for the progress in the negotiations.
“This
will go a long way in building trust and confidence, and generating the
atmosphere for the accelerated plans of the associations on
socio-economic reforms, and political and constitutional reforms,” he
said at the press conference on Wednesday.
As
another confidence-building measure, the NDFP and Manila also agreed on
swapping a number of prisoners, namely four soldiers and police
officers under rebel custody and 23 political inmates under government
custody.
Peace negotiations have been held on and off for the last
three decades. The rebels and the government had declared separate
ceasefires last year, which allowed the government to withdraw troops
from battlefields to focus on an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf
terrorist group, which is now a Daesh affiliate, and other extremist
outfits in the country’s south.
The resumption of the peace talks
with the 4,000-strong communist rebel group had been a high priority for
the government in Manila since Duterte took office on June 30 last
year. Talks with the rebels had collapsed in 2013 after the government
of former president Benigno Aquino refused to release some key rebel
commanders.
The communist insurgency in the Southeast Asian
country began in 1968 and is one of the longest-running in the world. It
has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives, according to the military.
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