Saturday, June 17, 2017

Gov’t to stop military offensives vs. NPA —Bello

From GMA News (Jun 18): Gov’t to stop military offensives vs. NPA —Bello

Government peace panel chairman and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Sunday said military troops will refrain from conducting combat operations against the New People's Army as a confidence-building measure towards a bilateral ceasefire agreement and the advancement of peace talks.

Bello made the remark after the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) made recommendations to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to order all NPA units in Mindanao to stop offensives against the Armed Forces and Philippine and the National Police.

He said that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) "reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army to pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire deal and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace."

Bello also welcomed NDFP's statement condemning the acts of terrorism by the ISIS-inspired Maute group in Marawi and ordered all Moro Resistance and Liberation Organizations inside the city to assume home defense tasks.

"We welcome the recent statement of the National Democratic Front reaffirming its support to the Philippine government’s fight against Maute, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines groups and other terrorist organizations wreaking havoc in Marawi City and other parts of the country," Bello said.

"We also appreciate the NDF’s commitment in their declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to focus their attention on the war against terror groups," he added.

Members of the government peace panel withdrew from the negotiating table during the 5th Round of the peace talks last month due to a directive from the CPP that the NPA intensify its offensive operations amid the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte later appealed to the NPA to join the fight against the Maute group in Marawi City.

In response, the NDFP said it will only cooperate if the Duterte administration withdraws its all-out war policy and the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

Nonetheless, Bello said that the recent NDFP statements bodes well for the continuation of the stalled peace talks between the two parties.

"These voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF in solidarity with government against acts of terrorism augur well for the desired continuation of the stalled 5th round of peace talks as they provide, if sustained, the needed enabling environment favorable to moving the peace negotiations forward," Bello said.

Bello also reaffirmed the GRP's adherence to all previously signed agreements with the Reds, including the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, which protects NDFP consultants from arrest, detention, and harassment while the peace talks are ongoing.

"The Philippine government hereby unequivocally recommits its adherence to all previously signed agreements, including specifically, but not limited to, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees," he said.

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