By RG Cruz
Published on ABS-CBN News
Latest Philippine Headlines
3 December 2010

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process announced a ceasefire with communist rebels from December 16 to January 3.

Government chief negotiator to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) Undersecretary Alexander Padilla made this announcement in Malacañan on Friday.

Padilla said this is the longest such ceasefire between both parties in a long time.

“The Christmas suspension of military operations (SOMO) will be observed from December 16, traditionally the beginning of Simbang Gabi, up to and until January 3. Eighteen days, the longest ceasefire agreed upon in the last 10 years,” Padilla said.

He said the government, through himself and lawyer Pablito Sanidad, met with the NDF negotiating panel chief Luis Jalandoni, Connie Ledesma and their lawyer from December 1 to 2 in Hong Kong.

He said they did not have any pre-set agenda and had free-wheeling talks.

Padilla said there was a reiteration of the effectivity of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG.

Jalandoni was also shown a copy of the order lifting a hold departure order against him, thus allowing him to return to the country freely.

Jalandoni is expected to fly to Manila tomorrow (Dec. 4).

Padilla said another round of informal talks has been set on the 2nd week of January to set the agenda and lay ground rules for a formal resumption of peace talks on the 3rd week of February next year.

The Aquino government thanked the Norwegian government for hosting the talks.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles said the ceasefire is unilateral on both sides. She hopes both sides will monitor its implementation.

Deles clarified there were no promises of releases of NPA allies or personnel.

IMT won’t be pulled out

At the same time, Deles also revealed her optimism that the International Monitoring Team (IMT) overseeing the ceasefire between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government will not be pulled out.

Deles said that after being given notes verbale to keep their contingents to the IMT for 3 months, the governments of Brunei and Japan gave positive responses.

Deles also said the head of the IMT from Malaysia has sought assistance to keep their contingent on the ground, which, to Deles, is a positive sign the IMT won’t be pulled out.

Formal talks in February 2011

Meanwhile, in a statement, Jalandoni, the chair of the NDF negotiating panel, said the formal peace talks are tentatively set on February 19 to 25, 2011 in Oslo, Norway.

He said both sides also agreed to have preliminary talks tentatively set on January 14 to 18, 2011 also in Oslo.

“The schedules for the formal talks will be confirmed after consultation with the other Panel members of both sides. The tentative dates of the meeting and formal talks will be presented to the Royal Norwegian Government, the Third Party Facilitator of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations through Ambassador Ture Lundh,” the NDF said.

The NDF added that during the meeting, Padilla presented to Jalandoni a letter assuring that the JASIG remains effective, and that the hold departure order issued against him by the Arroyo administration was lifted by Chief State Council Ricardo Paras II last November 30.

“Atty. Padilla further gave assurance to Mr. Jalandoni that he could safely come to and leave the Philippines for a private family visit, citing the statement of President Aquino,” the NDF said.

The NDF, however, said that aside from the lifting of the JASIG’s suspension, it also urged the government to release the detained members of the NDF as well as the detained members of the so-called Morong 43.

The Morong 43, who are mostly health workers, were arrested by a joint police and military team last February from a resort house in Rizal province while allegedly undergoing bomb-making training.

The military has accused the health workers of having ties with the communist movement.

AFP to observe SOMO

Gen. Ricardo David, Armed Forces’ chief, said on Friday that the military will be observing the SOMO declared by the government.

“In view of this development, I am declaring the suspension of offensive military operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the New People’s Army from 16 December 2010 to 03 January 2011,” announced David.

He said he hoped that the communist rebels will abide by the “agreement.”

“I believe that they will respect whatever agreements that were put into (motion) by the peace panel and the New People’s Army or the National Democratic Front,” the Armed Forces’ chief said.

David, however, reiterated that military troops will respond in “self-defense” if attacked during the period.

“However this will not preclude our soldiers from taking appropriate action in self defense and to protect our people and communities from armed threats, we hope that this gesture shall pave way for winning the peace and permanently putting an end to armed conflict,” said David.

as of 12/03/2010 6:26 PM

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