I welcome the statement of Mr. Luis Jalandoni on the readiness of the National Democratic Front to sign a bilateral peace agreement with the government even before the release of the political prisoners.

The willingness of the NDF to sign the bilateral ceasefire agreement is indeed a welcome development as this bodes well to a positive atmosphere when we meet again for the third round of talks in January.

A bilateral ceasefire would not only benefit the combatants but the people who are caught in the crossfire of this armed conflict.

The GRP panel further recognizes the NDF’s efforts to work with us to attain peace. Its declaration of an indefinite unilateral ceasefire in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration in August is unprecedented and historic. Agreeing to a bilateral ceasefire is another milestone in the peace process.

Both panels have never set preconditions since the start of the negotiations under this administration. Despite the challenges, we continue to struggle to make peace happen for the country and the Filipino people.

Rest assured that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte remains committed to the release of a substantial number of political prisoners. The President has already shown time and again that he delivers on his word.

Forging a bilateral ceasefire agreement is the best gift the government and the NDF can give to the Filipino people this holiday season. May this lead to the permanent end of hostilities for the new year leading to a just and lasting peace.