MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The National Democratic Front (NDF) is set to reciprocate President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement of a unilateral ceasefire, NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said shortly after the President made the declaration in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
"I welcome President Duterte's announcement of unilateral ceasefire of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) in relation to the NPA (New People's Army)," Sison told Rappler on Monday, July 25.
"We share with President Duterte the determination to resume the formal talks and work for a just and lasting peace," added Sison, who is the founder of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP.)
Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the NDF negotiating panel immediately sent a letter to Secretary Silvestre Belllo III, chairman of the government's negotiating panel to welcome Duterte’s announcement, according to the NDF.
The NDF "would be able to respond to or reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) soon after receiving its full text," Jalandoni said in a statement released after Duterte delivered his SONA.
Jalandoni gave assurances that the NDF "would study it carefully and make the appropriate response."
Duterte in his SONA declared a unilateral ceasefire with the NPA "effective immediately." The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP, while the NDF is its political arm.
"All of us want peace," Duterte said. "Not the peace of the dead, but the peace of the living."
Peace talks resumption in August
The NDF is looking forward to the resumption of formal talks in Oslo on August 20 to 27, Jalandoni said. At the meeting, NDF expects that the negotiating panels "would at the latest exchange ceasefire declarations in order to discuss and agree further on how to make them effective."
But the NDF leader noted that he "assumed that the GRP ceasefire declaration is necessarily connected with the the release of all current political prisoners under the amnesty proclamation to be issued by the President Duterte and concurred in by a majority of Congress."
Jalandoni was referring to the Oslo Joint Statement of June 15, 2016.
The agenda for the scheduled August 20 talks in Oslo are the following:
The NPA is behind Asia's longest running insurgency. Previous administrations have held peace talks with the communist movement, but the process always broke down for various reasons.
The last time the Philippine government announced a unilateral ceasefire (outside those announced during the holidays) was in 2011.
It was “in the spirit of goodwill and as part of confidence building measures” for the resumption of peace talks between the Aquino government and the Communist Party of the Philippines. It lasted 7 days from February 15 to 21. – Rappler.com