Philippine rebels declare ceasefire before peace talks
Comes after some insurgency members released to allow participation in resumption of peace talks next week.
Hader Glang - ZAMBODNGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – The Philippines’ communist insurgency declared a unilateral ceasefire Friday after some members were released from prison to participate in the resumption of peace talks with the government next week.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and it's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), said in a statement that the ceasefire was declared "to celebrate and bolster” the resumption of formal negotiations between their political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), and the government.
Local media quoted the statement as expressing "deep appreciation of the determined efforts” of President Rodrigo Duterte “to push forward and accelerate… peace negotiations as a means of addressing the roots of the civil war in the Philippines".
With the talks set to be held in the Norwegian capital Oslo Aug. 22-26, the unilateral ceasefire is due to last from take 12.01 a.m. Sunday (1601GMT Saturday) to 11.59 p.m. Aug. 27 (1559).
Earlier on Friday, a regional court temporarily released a couple, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, accused of being leaders of the CPP-NPA, bringing the number of those released to participate in negotiations to at least 19.
"Our release is a goodwill measure and creates an environment conducive to peace talks. We thank President Rodrigo Duterte for ordering our release," news broadcaster ABS-CBN quoted Benito as saying in a press briefing.
"We hope that this ceasefire declaration will be reciprocated by the GRP as a show of all-out determination to move forward with peace negotiations," said the CPP statement.
"To further bolster peace negotiations, the CPP and NPA are also open to discuss the possibility of a longer ceasefire upon completion of the release of all political prisoners," it added.
During the talks, the CPP seeks to address a proposal for Duterte to grant a general amnesty for the release of all political prisoners.
More than 500 members of the communist groups are currently in detention.
Despite the ceasefire, the CPP said the NPA would remain on alert.
"Even while ready to engage in defensive action, the NPA will exert efforts to carry out early counter-maneuvers to avoid armed encounters during the specified ceasefire period," according to the statement.
Previous negotiations with the CPP-NDF collapsed in 2004 after the communists withdrew from the negotiating table on account of the renewed inclusion of CPP founder founder Jose Maria Sison and the NPA on the United States terrorist list.
In 2014, negotiations again failed because previous President Benigno Aquino III turned down the rebels' demand to release detained comrades -- accusing the rebels of insincerity in efforts to achieve a political settlement.
In his peace overtures, Duterte -- who won the May 9 election -- has said that he will release all political prisoners if party leaders return from exile and sit down for negotiations.
He has also offered the CPP posts in his new government to smooth the way.
Since March 1969, the NPA has been waging one of Asia's longest running insurgencies in the country, which -- according to the military -- has claimed more than 3,000 lives over the past eight years.
The military estimates that the number of NPA members has dropped from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s to less than 4,000.
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