Govt, Reds fan hopes for truce in 4th round of peace talks

Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Apr 02 2017 07:15 PM | Updated as of Apr 03 2017 08:25 AM

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza (center) and GRP peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III (right) stand in a last minute huddle with NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili (left) ahead of the resumption of formal peace talks in The Netherlands. Photo courtesy of Rolly Francia and John Raña

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands — (2nd UPDATE) Hope springs internal for the forging of an interim bilateral ceasefire agreement between the government and communist rebels during the fourth round of peace talks here Sunday. 

An ABS-CBN source said the ceasefire was high on the agenda of both parties and that President Rodrigo Duterte instructed government negotiators to pursue the truce. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, chair of the government negotiating panel, earlier said Duterte has instructed them to forge a ceasefire agreement by the end of the round.

The new round of talks was set to open 4 p.m., Manila time but both camps have decided to delay the talks until Monday morning.

National Democratic Front (NDF) panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said they have yet to set the negotiation's agenda, pending discussions with presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza. 

Dureza only arrived in Amsterdam late Saturday after attending a forum concerning the Colombia peace process in London. 

Sunday's peace negotiation is the first that would take place without separate ceasefire declarations by the rebels and the Duterte government. 

Speaking in Cagayan de Oro on Sunday, the President said he has four conditions for the peace talks: clear parameters for the ceasefire and a reduction on papers; no extortion; release of all prisoners; and non-recognition of any territorial claim made by the rebels.

"I would like to continue the peace talks under 'yung wala masyadong away (in an environment that has minimal fighting)," he said.

In a statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confirmed it did not push through with its plan to reinstate its unilateral truce after the government "refused to reciprocate."

The issuance of ceasefire declarations was supposed to be done reciprocally as agreed upon by both camps in their March 11 joint statement during back-channel talks.

The CPP surmised that Duterte heeded the advice of his national security and military officials against issuing a reciprocal ceasefire declaration. 

Ahead of the fourth round of talks, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday branded the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army, as "thugs," "terrorists" and "extortionists." 

"We stand by the President's decision to resume the peace process but we likewise should call on the communists to show their commitment both in words and in deeds," Lorenzana said in a statement. 

He also complained about the recent clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA. 

The CPP, however, said it was the military which carried out intensified "fascist crimes against civilians."