Gov't, NDFP agree to resumption of peace talks

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Four weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte declared he was done talking about peace with the communist rebels, the government is again ready to resume  formal peace negotiations with them  next April. 

A joint statement released by the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) today said the formal peace talks shall continue between both parties.

It added the talks shall reiterate the "reaffirmation of all bilateral agreements and statements made in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, including the Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)."

The statement also said both the government and the NDPF have agreed to reinstate their respective unilateral ceasefires before the scheduled fourth round of talks in April 2017.

An interim bilateral ceasefire will also take place, which the statement said will happen "after the terms of reference and other considerations shall have been settled."

The statement mentioned, "(I)n order to ensure the continuous participation in the peace negotiations of the 19 NDFP consultants and staff who were released in August 2016, the GRP shall release a rearrested consultant, ensure the safety and liberty of all the consultants, as well as undertake the necessary measures including the extension or reinstatement of their bail, as the case may be, and other legal remedies to enable their free and unhindered movement."

The fourth round of formal peace talks shall be held in the first week of April. The fifth round will happen in June.

Back on track

Peace adviser Jesus Dureza issued a statement today on the resumption on the peace talks.

He said the talks were "back on track."

Mentioning the unilateral ceasefire, Dureza said, "The unilateral ceasefire is a prelude to an interim bilateral ceasefire that needs further meetings between the two sides to determine and agree on rules, necessary guidelines and mechanisms. The parties are expected  to start discussions on the bilateral ceasefire during the planned resumption of the negotiations during the first week of April, this year.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also issued a statement on this development.

The statement said, "The AFP has time and again expressed its unequivocal support to all peace initiatives undertaken by our government past and present.."

It added, "We share the Commander-in-Chief's aspiration to attain a just and lasting peace for our country and will do all we can to deliver on this for the benefit of all our citizens specially in conflict affected areas."

The AFP said pending further instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte, "all military operations will continue and remain at current state."

A bumpy road to peace

On February 8, Duterte said he was stopping any peace talks with the communist rebels unless there was a compelling reason to do so.

"I tried everything. As you can see, I walked the extra mile, released their leaders so they could go to Oslo to talk. Now they want 400-plus prisoners who fought the government. I'll just order the Philippine contingent (to the peace talks) to fold up their tents and come home," Duterte told reporters in Davao City.

Read: Duterte halts peace talks with communist rebels

A day before, Durtere lifted the ceasfire between the government and rebels.

The rebels had said they planned to lift their ceasefire with the government on Feb. 10.

On March 3, Duterte again spoke about making peace with rebels, this time saying he was open to discussing it with them.

He appealed to them, saying "We need to talk from the heart."

Read: Duterte, NDF open to resumption of peace talks

"I'm ready as long as we communicate well. I'm ready to resume the ceasefire again, but this time I want it to be sincere," Duterte said.

NDF legal counsel Edre Olalia said Duterte's most recent pronouncement is a "welcome development" to the stalled peace talks.

"It's a positive sign. It's something that everybody not only the negotiating panels from both sides must take advantage of, but also the people at large, the public," Olalia told CNN Philippines on Saturday (March 4).

CNN Philippines Digital producers Eimor P. Santos and VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.