Duterte OKs deal on interim ceasefire
DAVAO CITY – “Approved!”
That was the response of President Duterte after he was consulted by the government’s chief negotiator on the draft interim ceasefire agreement with the National Democratic Front on Wednesday.
The phone conversation between Duterte and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza happened at around 5 p.m. Philippine time.
“Mr. President, after several days, we have crafted together with the NDFP an agreement. Awaiting for your approval,” Dureza told the President.
Sources said that both parties are set to sign an agreement to forge an interim ceasefire deal to create a better condition for the negotiations on Wednesday evening.
The negotiating panels believe that a joint agreement would create better mechanism to avoid unnecessary hostilities on the ground.
The NDF, however, asserted that a bilateral ceasefire agreement should go together with the crafting and inking of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms.
NDF peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili, who said that this is proof that the talks is moving forward, shared that the New People’s Army would immediately facilitate the release of a police officer and three soldiers captured in Mindanao.
But the speedy and safe release of the captured government forces would require a form of stand down of forces in the areas of the turnover, Agcaoili said.
The NDF identified the areas that they requested to be covered by the Suspension of Military Operations and Suspension of Police Operations as the towns of Talakag, Lantapan, Baungon, Pagantucan and Kalilangan and the cities of Valencia all in the province of Bukidnon.
In Surigao del Norte, it would cover Surigao City, Alegria, Bacuag, Gigaquit, Claver, Placer and Mainit.
The NDF also requested a stand down in the town of Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte and areas in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and South Cotabato.
Agcaoili said the stand down would help ensure the safety of the third party teams, NPA custodial units and local government officials who will be at the releases.
Meanwhile, government negotiator Hernani Braganza confirmed that they have been meeting with the third party team composed of religious leaders from the Sowing the Seeds of Peace disclosing that military officials were also present in the discussions.
“As far as the AFP is concerned, wala na man silang problema sa stand down,” Braganza said.
Asserting that the President is all aboard in the present round of talks, Dureza said Mr. Duterte reaffirmed his commitment to also release political prisoners.
Dureza said that this will be in pursuance of the goodwill but he said certain processes must also be observed and it will take some time and effort.
Dureza divulged that after his conversation with Duterte, he received three more calls from the Palace to follow up on the issue of releases of political prisoners.
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