NDFP, GRP sign agreement on interim joint ceasefire

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) announced today their agreement on an interim joint ceasefire.

In a formal ceremony presided by the Royal Norwegian Government facilitator Elisabeth Slattum, the parties signed the document entitled Agreement on an Interim Joint Ceasefire they said was a product of three “very difficult” days of negotiations.

Slattum congratulated the parties for their “flexibility and creativity” in coming up with the document, “which would be put into effect upon the signing of the guidelines and ground rules.”

Slattum said the agreement is aimed at generating goodwill and trust in the peace process.

She added that the deal on an interim joint ceasefire is to encourage the forging of a more stable and more comprehensive joint ceasefire agreement and to provide a more enabling environment for the earlier signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

The NDFP for its part said the interim joint ceasefire shall be signed simultaneous to, or immediately after, the signing of the CASER, which is expected to be finished within the year.

“Let me clarify that there is no ceasefire yet.  It will be implemented when the CASER is finished,” NDFP consultant Wilma Tiamzon said.

The parties agreed to direct their respective Ceasefire Committees to meet in between formal talks and during formal rounds of negotiations “to discuss, formulate and finalize the guidelines and ground rules for the implementation” of the ceasefire.

The prospective ceasefire’s guidelines and ground rules shall govern the presence of armed units and elements of both parties in local communities and the creation of buffer zones.

The ground rules would also include agreements on what constitutes prohibited, hostile and provocative acts by armed groups of either party.

The guidelines shall also allow for a ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanism to oversee the prospective ceasefire’s implementation and to handle complaints of violations.

The signed Agreement on an Interim Joint Ceasefire also said discussions to resolve the issue of a single government authority and taxation shall be included in the discussions of political and constitutional reforms, the third substantive agenda of the negotiations as listed down in The Hague Joint Declaration.

“This will go a long way in building trust and confidence and generating the atmosphere on the acceleration of the negotiations for CASER,” NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Ma. Sison said in his remarks during the signing ceremony.

“I think the (ceasefire) negotiators were wise and flexible enough to make provisions for what some people expected would break the negotiations,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)