MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – The deadline passed on Wednesday, October 26, without a draft bilateral ceasefire agreement between the Philippine government and the communist National Democratic Front (NDF).
Government negotiator Hernani Braganza, who chairs the government’s ceasefire committee, said it may take another month before a draft is ready for signing.
The panels will likely meet “end of November or first week of December,” he said.
Braganza added he is confident the unilateral ceasefires by the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) – an unprecedented agreement during the first round of talks in August – will hold as they continue to thresh out details of a bilateral agreement that would make the situation more stable.
“Technical details for the bilateral ceasefire agreement are still to be discussed before the signing of an agreement,” Braganza said.
The unilateral ceasefires are holding, but there are growing complaints from both the military and the NDF about each other’s activities. (READ: NDF warns of peace talks spoilers after US embassy dispersal)
A bilateral ceasefire deal will put in place common guidelines that the military and the NPA are expected to follow to avoid misencounters or other violations.
Both panels also seek a third party that will monitor the implementation of the ceasefire and mediate in case of complaints or violations.
The NDF is also waiting for a general amnesty proclamation for about 400 “political prisoners,” a government commitment that the NDF pressed during the 2nd round of talks.
A draft amnesty proclamation has been submitted to Malacañang but it has yet to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. It will need Congress approval, too.
The communist rebels have said that a general amnesty proclamation is a “necessary incentive” for them to agree to a bilateral ceasefire deal.
A committee composed of government negotiators and NDF consultants was created to prepare a draft bilateral agreement that will be the basis for a final deal.
They agreed during the 1st round of talks in Oslo, Norway last August that a bilateral ceasefire agreement should be in place two months after the signing. (DOCUMENT: PH, NDF joint statement on the resumption of formal talks)
This was reiterated during the 2nd round of talks, also in Oslo, when they agreed that a draft should be ready by October 26. (DOCUMENT: PH, NDF joint statement on the 2nd round of talks) – Rappler.com