World Bulletin / News Desk
“It is indicative of the sincerity of both parties in the [peace] process which augurs well for peace,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement Wednesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral and indefinite cease-fire last month on the eve of the resumption of formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The move came after the NDF’s seven-day goodwill cease-fire covering negotiations hosted in the Norwegian capital Oslo on Aug. 21-27, which was extended indefinitely after Duterte’s declaration.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has described the cease-fire by the CPP and its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA) as “historic and unprecedented” during the 47-year conflict -- which has killed more than 40,000 people in the longest-running communist insurgency in Asia.
On Wednesday, Bello expressed optimism that a bilateral agreement might be reached and put in place when the second round of peace negotiations resume Oct. 4-10 in Oslo.
Referring to both panels’ agreement to submit drafts for the formal bilateral cease-fire during the October talks, Bello said: “Hopefully, this will ripen to a bilateral and permanent ceasefire and finally the end of hostilities.”
In 30 years of negotiations between the government and the communist groups, talks have been disrupted at least 15 times, primarily over cease-fire declarations and the release of detained NDF consultants.
According to the OPAPP, the current talks are entering “the more substantive phase” as both panels will be submitting outlines and drafts on social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms, as well as taking up a proposed amnesty proclamation for all listed detained NDF members.
In August, they agreed to accelerate the process with the aim of signing a final peace agreement within a year.
More than 500 members of the communist group, which has been waging a decades-old insurgency, are currently in detention.
In his peace overtures, Duterte has said that he will release all political prisoners if party leaders return from exile and sit down for negotiations.
He has also offered the CPP posts in his new government to smooth the way.
The insurgency, waged since March 1969, has claimed more than 3,000 lives over the past eight years, according to the military.
The military estimates that the number of NPA members has dropped from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s to less than 4,000 -- a chief NDF negotiator, however, claimed in Oslo that the group has 10,000 armed regulars operating in more than 72 provinces.