Philippine forces reciprocate Reds' no offensive operations - Bello
The Philippine government security forces would not undertake offensive operations against the communist New People's Army, peace official said on Sunday.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, government chief negotiator with the communist National Democratic Front, said the move was to "reciprocate" the recommendation of the NDF to the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines to order the NPA to refrain from attacking the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine national Police, who have been fighting the terrorists in Mindanao.
"The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army to pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace," he said in a statement.
NDF peace panel chief Fidel Agcaoili on Saturday said the NDF has recommended that the NPA combatants refrain from attacking the government troopers fighting the Islamic State-linked Maute, Abu Sayyaf and Ansar Al Khilafah Philippines (AKP) groups who have been wreaking havoc in Marawi City.
He has said the Maoist group condemns and is resolved and determined to "counteract" these terrorist groups "linked to local reactionary forces, affiliated with ISIS and supported by US-CIA and other foreign entities."
Bello said the government welcomes the NDF recent statement.
"We also appreciate the NDF’s commitment in their declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to focus their attention on the war against terror groups," he said.
"These voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF in solidarity with government against acts of terrorism augur well for the desired continuation of the stalled 5th round of peace talks as they provide, if sustained, the needed enabling environment favorable to moving the peace negotiations forward," Bello added.
The 5th round of peace talks with the NDF were stalled last month after the government peace panel refused to continue with the negotiation amid CPP's order to NPA to intensify attacks after President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law due to Maute's attack in Marawi City.
Since then, the NDF has been asking the government to go back to the negotiating table.
Bello also reiterated the Philippine government's commitment to adhere to all previously signed agreements and to maintain the needed enabling environment in step with the NDF's own commitment to do the same.
He also expressed appreciation to Norway's "steadfast and indefatigable support and assistance to the entire process and for trusting that efforts are being exerted towards a final peace agreement."
Norway is the third party facilitator in the peace process between the Philippine government and the NDF. (Celerina Monte/DMS)