ROME, Italy— The peace negotiating panels exchanged documents today on the bilateral ceasefire proposal of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the formal complaint of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) regarding the Makilala clash last January 21.
Convening the ad hoc ceasefire committee on the fifth day of the formal talks, the parties each received from the other the documents in a brief meeting.
GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said he is encouraged by the NDFP’s reception to their bilateral ceasefire proposal, one of the government’s major objectives in this round of talks.
“The NDFP said we will discuss our bilateral ceasefire proposal on February 22 or 24 in The Netherlands,” Bello revealed.
“I find their response reasonable,” Bello said.
Bello also revealed that the final date of their meeting next month would depend of the availability of a Dutch archbishop who will be the caretaker of the reconstituted list of NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) protected consultants and peace process participants.
“I will witness the NDFP’s submission of their list of holders of documents of identification,” Bello said.
Both parties agreed last August at the first round of formal talks in Oslo, Norway to a reconstituted list after the encrypted original list’s pass key was corrupted by a raid conducted by the Dutch police of the NDFP International Office in August 28, 2007.
The NDFP in turn submitted to the GRP Panel a letter of protest in relation to the Makilala, North Cotabato clash between the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (PA) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
NDFP panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili called the Makilala clash “a clear breach of the GRP’s own unilateral ceasefire declaration.”
A 33-year old NPA fighter was confirmed killed while Lt. Gen. Rey Guerrero, commanding officer of Eastern Mindanao Command of the AFP, denied eight PA soldiers were killed as alleged by the NPA’s Rigoberto Sanchez.
The GRP reportedly told the NDFP they will study the protest letter and wait for the official report from the AFP. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)