GRP, NDFP panels draft agreement on release of captured soldiers

MANILA  — The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have started drafting an agreement that would pave the way for the release of military and police personnel captured by the New People’s Army(NPA).

This was one of the four conditions President Rodrigo Duterte has set before the start of the 4th round of peace talks in The Netherlands.

The other conditions include the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement; a stop to the alleged extortion activities of rebels; and the non-recognition of any territorial claim made by the communists.

Chief Peace negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said both parties are still discussing the terms that would be included in the draft agreement.

Bello said both panels agreed to make their own drafts and later consolidate it.

“Mayroon silang draft, mayroon kaming draft so ‘yun ang pag-uusapan namin, pag-sasamahin namin ‘yun,” Bello said in a radio interview.

The communist insurgents earlier expressed their willingness to release the captured military and police personnel from March 27 to April 6, among them a policeman from Bukidnon and three soldiers from Surigao Del Norte and Sultan Kudarat.

The release failed to push through due to continuous offensive operations of the military.

Both parties are still discussing the suspension of military operation.

NDF panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, meanwhile, assured that the fourth round of talks is already moving forward.

“Moving forward, agreement toward a more stable ceasefire,” Jalandoni stressed in a separate interview.

Both panels assured to discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) before they end the fourth round of peace talks on Thursday.

The government and communist rebels also agreed to discuss a joint interim ceasefire agreement as they further discussed other terms.

“We welcome the openness of NDF to undertake a forging in this round of talks of an agreement on joint interim ceasefire that will accompany our peace negotiations throughout,” Bello pointed out.

The AFP on Tuesday said they will continue with its operations against the NPA until a ceasefire declaration is ordered by Duterte.

Duterte lifted the government unilateral ceasefire and terminated the peace talks in February following the brutal killing of a policemen by alleged NPA members in Bukidnon province.

The peace talks resumed after successful back channel talks between the GRP peace panel and several NDFP consultants in Utrecht. SAMMY MARTIN/PNA- –