MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte’s adviser on the peace process said on Wednesday he wants the Philippine government to uphold a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels despite the decision of the New People’s Army (NPA) to end its own truce declaration.
Presidential adviser Jesus Dureza said he is dismayed with the recent development in the on-and-off peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels.
The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, wants to terminate a ceasefire it declared last year, but Dureza said the administration on its end needs to maintain the status quo.
“This will provide an enabling and conducive environment to the on-going peace talks. At the same time, we will recommend that government forces continue to be relentless in their campaign to protect the civilians from harm and terrorism,” Dureza said in a statement.
In a statement released on its website, the NPA said it will notify the Duterte administration of the termination of the interim ceasefire declared last August 28.
"With this declaration and notice, the August 28 unilateral ceasefire shall effectively expire on 11:59 p.m. of February 10," the group said.
"From today until the expiration of the ceasefire declaration, all commands and units of the NPA, including the people’s militia and self-defense corps, are tasked to take initiative and more vigorously carry out active defense in order to defend the people and revolutionary forces."
Despite the order, the NPA said it remains confident that peace negotiations will push through.
"Even as we terminate the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire, we continue to support the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. In our experience and in the experience of other peoples, it is possible to negotiate while fighting until the substantive agreements are forged to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace," the group said.
The NPA’s termination of its unilateral ceasefire declaration comes after the two sides had just finished their third round of talks and are gearing up for a discussion of a bilateral ceasefire in The Netherlands.
Prior to the NPA’s decision to end its ceasefire, various skirmishes had occurred in several parts of the country between communist rebels and government troops, indicating how fragile the unilateral ceasefire declarations are.
The communist rebels had repeatedly accused the military of abuses, such as encroaching on civilian facilities and rebel-held areas. The government, for its part, said there was no violation of ceasefire rules to talk of since was none to begin with.
A binding bilateral ceasefire by the two parties would have set guidelines and protocols that will guide the two sides.