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Gov't peace panel laments NPA ceasefire withdrawal
From left, representative of the communist movement the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Luis Jalandoni, Communist rebel negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, Norwegian Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum, Chief Philippine negotiator, Silvestre Bello III and Philippines secretary Jesus G. Dureza (Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), shake hands after signing a joint statement on what has been achieved in the third round of talks, in Rome, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. AP/Alessandra Tarantino
MANILA, Philippines — The government panel negotiating peace with the National Democratic Front expressed regret over the decision of the New People's Army to withdraw their unilateral ceasefire.
The armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines announced the withdrawal of a unilateral ceasefire with the government due to failure to release political prisoners.
The end of the unilateral ceasefire on the NPA side will be effective February 10.
The government peace panel, however, has recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte to stand by the unilateral ceasefire.
Peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III noted that the ceasefire declared by both parties in August last year was instrumental in moving the peace process forward.
"The ceasefire has also provided our people the opportunity to participate in the bigger peace table, enabling them to voice out their positions on the ongoing negotiations," Bello said in a statement.
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Bello noted that clashes between the government and the rebels have gone down since the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire.
Displaced peoples and communities, particularly indigenous peoples, have also started returning to their homes following the ceasefire.
"The last six months have given us a glimpse of the sort of peace that could emanate from the cessation of hostilities brought about by the re-opening of formal negotiations and the declaration of unilateral ceasefires by the Government of the Philippines and National Democratic Front (NDF)," the government panel chair said.
The government panel is looking forward to its meeting with their counterparts from the NDF for the fourth round of formal talks in April in The Hague, Netherlands.
A possible bilateral ceasefire agreement would be discussed on February 22, as agreed upon during the third round of talks held in Rome, Italy last month.
"It is our belief that such ceasefire agreement would set the ground rules on cessation of hostilities that could minimize, if not eliminate, the armed violence that affects communities," Bello said.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police will continue to provide protection and relief from potential violence resulting from the NPA's cancellation of the ceasefire.