Govt, NDF panels set talks on bilateral
cease-fire in Utrecht in February
January 25, 2017 7:34 PM
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA - The negotiating panels of the Philippine goveernment and the
National Democratic Front agreed to separately discuss the bilateral
ceasefire when they meet in February in time for the depositing of
identification documents of rebel leaders who are to be covered by the
Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) in Utrecht, The
The agreement was reached at the 3rd round of talks in Rome, which was set
to conclude late Wednesday.
Unable to include the joint ceasefire agenda during the opening of the 3rd
round of talks in Rome, the GRP got the NDF to finally table it for
discussion after a formal submission and acceptance on the part of rebel
negotiators, according to a press statement issued by the Office of the
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
The meeting for the bilateral ceasefire will be held in Utrecht in
February, according to the government's chief negotiator, Labor Secretary
Silvestre Bello III.
This developed after the NDF committed to respond to the GRP draft
bilateral proposal, which they officially received on Tuesday afternoon on
the 4th day of the peace negotiations in Rome.
NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they will study the draft
government proposal and will submit their own draft.
“They received then they initialed the draft and they proposed that, for
discussion of our proposed draft, they will have to come back (in The
Netherlands) on the 22nd or 24th of February,” Bello said.
The meeting could last up to three days. The government side immediately
welcomed the development. "The fact that they agreed to discuss it
(bilateral ceasefire) is a positive development of the [peace] process,”
Bello said he is confident that the commitment of the NDF to the peace
process will continue to hold the separate unilateral ceasefire
declaration, which the rebels had earlier hinted they were seriously
considering to withdraw from.
“Otherwise, what’s the idea of discussing a bilateral ceasefire?” said
He said there was never mention about lifting the unilateral ceasefire
during the unscheduled meeting following the armed encounter in Makilala,
North Cotabato that left one rebel dead.
Bello said the Makilala incident should push both panels to pursue a
bilateral ceasefire in order to direct complaints on violations and prompt
fact-finding and investigation by a third party monitor.
The ongoing unilateral ceasefire is the longest that the armed forces of
both contending parties have maintained, now on its fifth month, in the
history of the armed conflict between the government and the NDF.
The government has been pushing for a more formal and secure bilateral
ceasefire agreement to provide the atmosphere conducive to the peace
A bilateral ceasefire can be reached and signed on or before the 4th round
of negotiations set in April in Oslo, Norway according to both panels.
Negotiating panels from both sides agreed to expand the agenda of the
February special meeting after intense back channeling by panel members
from both sides after the NDF initially declined to include the bilateral
ceasefire in the agenda of the 3rd round of talks.
New JASIG list
Bello and the rest of the panel are going to the Netherlands next month to
witness the depositing of the names and proper identification of a sealed
document that will contain the names of 87 NDF leaders who will be immune
from government arrests.
The new JASIG list was supposed to have already been deposited as early as
October last year but the NDF said some technical problems bogged down the
NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said it was compounded by the
unavailability of the bishop who will act as custodian of the JASIG list.
The JASIG list contains the real identification of the NDF consultants who
have assumed names and aliases and are to be immune from government
Bello is the only panel member who will be given access to five random
names in the JASIG verification list for verification before it is
deposited in a safety deposit box of a still-to-be named bank in The
The list will only be opened by both parties if a listed NDF member is
captured by police and government security operatives. The arrest of
alleged JASIG covered NDF consultants had led to the collapse of previous
talks between the GRP and the NDF.