In a two-hour conference at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel on Monday, committees representing the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines discussed proposals on a bilateral ceasefire agreement (BCA).
Both committee chairpersons, Silvestre Bello representing the government of the Philippines and Fidel Agcaoili for the National Democratic Front (NDF) expressed confidence that a mutual ground will be reached in order to end the long-standing conflict between the two parties.
In the proposal forwarded by the government, a BCA shall be enforced if the NDF agree to the following conditions: stop the collection of revolutionary tax; free prisoners; not claim any part of the Philippines as their territory; and stop all hostile actions such as kidnappings, arson on any private and public assets, and armed attacked.
Although the conditions appear to be strenuous on the NDF, Bello said that the terms were discussed and that the panel is “open to the idea”.
“(The NDF) asked for some time to go over (the GRP proposal) and study it. Hopefully tomorrow, open discussions will commence,” he said.
Meanwhile, Agcaoili said that their counter proposal consists of the conditions already presented in the declaration of unilateral ceasefire in August 2016. He added that the NDF proposal had already proven its viability and would hope to merge this in forming the new BCA.
As early as the first convention for the creation of the BCA, both parties had already met half way on one of the conditions; the release of prisoners held by the NDF’s military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), and of the alleged political prisoners being held by the government.
Bello mentioned that there are 19 detainees who are sick and elderly in their care that had been released while there are about 150-160 cases still under review. He cited the case of activist Ferdinand Castillo who suffered a stroke while in detention. The NDF had called for immediate assistance for Castillo in which the government responded to.
Agcaoili said the NDF doesn’t see any problem with the release of prisoners on their side as part of the provisions.