PASIG CITY—President Rodrigo R. Duterte announced on Monday, July 25, a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels to be effective immediately.
“To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities, and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks, I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front] effective immediately,” said President Duterte during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) held in Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
The President urged the communist rebels “to end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes” describing them to be “getting bloodier by the day.”
“Let me make this appeal to you, if we cannot accept, love one another, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much,” he added.
Still firm on his principle of inclusivity, President Duterte also appealed to our Moro brothers and sisters, alongside the communist rebels, to stop the fighting and help realize their shared desire for peace.
Ready to reciprocate
The President during his SONA also asked the “NDF and its forces [the NPAs] to respond accordingly” to his call.
In a letter addressed to Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, chair of the government peace panel negotiating with the NDF, sent immediately after the President’s SONA, NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni welcomed the President’s announcement of the unilateral ceasefire and declared the NDFP’s own readiness to reciprocate as soon as they receive the full text of the ceasefire declaration.
The communist group also gave the assurance that “NDFP shared with President Duterte the determination to work for a just and lasting peace” in the country.
Jalandoni also looked forward to the resumption of the formal talks in August where both panels are expected to “exchange ceasefire declarations in order to discuss and agree further on how to make them effective.”
Road to peace
Earlier, President Duterte approved the peace roadmap for the country, which included the resumption of peace negotiations with the said communist group.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza explained that the parties are looking at August 20 for the resumption of the formal round of negotiations in Oslo, Norway. The Royal Norwegian Government will continue serving as talks’ third party facilitator.
At the same time, the President directed the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs “to do everything within its power and authority” to effect the temporary release and travel of some CPP/NPA/NDF personalities who will participate in the Oslo talks pursuant to the previously signed Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG.
Leading the government negotiating panel is Secretary Bello, with panel members former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza; former Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento; and lawyers Noel Felongco, and Angela Librado.
Prior to his formal assumption in office, Duterte sent a team composed of Dureza, Bello, and Braganza to hold preliminary meetings with the NDF panel to discuss the reopening of the peace talks and its agenda.