A “stand-down” agreement between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will begin next week in line with resumed formal peace talks between the two sides in Oslo, Norway, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison said on Wednesday.
This agreement was approved on the heels of “successful” backchannel talks between negotiating panels of the Duterte administration and the NDFP in The Netherlands held last week, according to Sison.
“Successful. Ask the GRP [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] negotiating panel [and]please wait for the joint GRP-NDFP announcement,” he told reporters in an online interview, when asked about the results of the informal talks.
The backchannel talks between the government and the communist rebels began on June 6 where the two sides discussed the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser).
Sison had said if the backchannel talks turned out to be fruitful by approving the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and the National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) provisions of Caser, the stand-down agreement between the two parties would be declared.
The agreement will be implemented on June 21 instead of June 14, with the CPP founder noting the court’s “delayed” permission for the six NDFP consultants to travel to Oslo.
The formal peace talks will take place June 28 to 30 in the Norwegian capital, Sison said.
The six consultants who were allowed to travel are Benito Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis, Alan Jazmines, Randal Echanis, Vicente Ladlad and Adelberto Silva.
The stand-down agreement would be the first phase of the bilateral ceasefire between the forces of the government and the Left on the ground.
The agreement is “an act of mutual goodwill to stimulate the resumption of formal peace talks. It is also to prepare for the coordinated unilateral ceasefire, which is a more advanced form of ceasefire,” Sison said.
“Stand-down… means stay where you are and do not shoot at the other side,” he added.
Sison had explained that the agreement would evolve into a coordinated unilateral ceasefire (CUC) upon approval of an interim peace agreement and all provisions under Caser.
Once it turned into a CUC or the second phase of the cessation of hostilities, the two panels will declare a bilateral ceasefire, pending outcome of the formal peace negotiations.
With the limited timeline for the stand-down agreement, Sison argued that the agreement cannot be referred to as a ceasefire, saying it is only a “form” of it.
“The stand-down [agreement]is only a form of a ceasefire,” he noted.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, believes that the agreement would “pave the way” for a peaceful resolution of the communist insurgency.
“Your AFP always support the peace efforts of our government and we believe that this will pave the way toward a peaceful resolution of the decades-old challenge that peace-loving Filipinos have been longing for,” Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs chief, said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana however said he wants to be enlightened on the stand-down agreement, pointing out that the armed wing of the CPP, the New People’s Army, might not obey it.