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Rody: Conditions for ceasefire set

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President Rodrigo Duterte has junked the immediate signing of a bilateral ceasefire pact with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front, saying the rebel group must first halt its collection of revolutionary taxes and other forms of extortion, as well as release all prisoners being held by the New People’s Army.

The President laid out the preconditions ahead of today’s resumption of the fourth round of peace talks at the seaside town of Noordwijk in The Netherlands.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte wants at least four conditions met before signing a binding truce accord with the communist group.

“The President has instructed to reiterate to the government panel the terms for a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the CPP-NDF-NPA,” Abella said.

Duterte said any bilateral ceasefire pact must have clear parameters and in no way shall the government recognize any territorial claims of the rebel group.

The communist rebels earlier promised to declare a unilateral ceasefire ahead of the peace talks “on or before March 31” but changed their minds when government chief negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the administration will not reciprocate.

President Rodrigo Duterte

The communist group lamented the government’s refusal to issue a reciprocal unilateral cessation of hostilities, a departure from what was set during the last time both parties met for backchannel talks.

“The NDF and the government agreed to this measure in the interim in order to move the talks forward and improve the atmosphere for negotiations after the impasse last February,” NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said.

Despite this, Agcaoili said the NDF is willing to be “flexible” to move the peace process forward.

“The NDF is one with the government in desiring to resolve the serious concerns that have been raised in relation to the previous six-month unilateral ceasefires, mindful that addressing these issues is crucial to ensuring that any ceasefire agreement in the future would be more effective,” Agcaoili added.

Duterte, a self-described socialist who once boasted of his links to the communist rebels, has made a peace deal with the movement one of his top priorities.

After taking office he released captured rebel leaders and both sides declared separate temporary ceasefires to pave the way for peace talks, the first round of which Norway hosted and mediated in August. With AFP


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