It is with the recognition of the value and legitimacy of peace process that we, members of the civil society and peace movement, commend and welcome the recent declaration of a 16-day unilateral and reciprocal nationwide ceasefires between the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as part of confidence-building measures towards the potential revival of peace negotiation in this year.

In a joint statement by the GRP and NDFP signed in Utrecht, The Netherlands on December 21, the respective armed units and personnel of the Parties shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the other. The ceasefire reportedly aims to generate a favorable environment conducive to the holding of informal talks in preparation for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations.

For us peacebuilders, the peace process, while not the be-all and end-all of achieving just and lasting peace, is one crucial step towards ending decades of armed conflict, which is a result of a collective failure to meaningfully address issues of social injustices such as poverty, inequality, marginalization, and human rights violations.

Members of the civil society and peace movement in the country such Mindanao-based Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), expect that the recent declaration of holiday truce from both parties is now ‘for real’ and could trigger more positive developments to fast track the implementation of the substantive agenda of the talks. 

In just a short period, before the termination of the talks 2 years ago, the peace negotiation between GRP and NDFP had been making significant advances such as the agreement on free land distribution to landless farmers under Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) which also seeks to address the root causes of conflict; formation of the Bilateral Working Teams of Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) in order to accelerate the drafting of CASER; exchange of drafts and initial discussion on Political and Constitutional Reforms; signing of a Supplementary Agreement for the operationalization of the Joint Monitoring Committee for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); and agreement of both parties to discuss the government’s proposal for a binding bilateral ceasefire pact. We urge both parties to bank on these previously signed and binding agreements. 

IID hopes that this recent move from both Parties is well within the ‘principled reaffirmation of the primacy of the peace process’. Going back to war can never be a substitute to the people’s yearning for a just and lasting peace. Historically, a military approach has been proven to be ineffective to curb the conflict as it has brought further unrest to peaceful communities, and caused destruction of livelihood and displacement of thousands of families.

We fervently hope that by the time both parties decide to resume the formal peace negotiation, the interest of the people will be at the core of the peace table