The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), today, welcomed as a positive development the recent declaration of ceasefires by both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as the Philippines and other countries across the world grapple with the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic.

We commend the recent move of the NDFP and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declaring a unilateral ceasefire from March 26 (12am) until 11:59 pm on April 15, as a direct response to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutierres’ call for an ‘immediate global ceasefire.’ This coincides with the Philippine government’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire on March 19, which also lapses on April 15. 

IID, along with partner and allied national and global civil society groups and movements who have been consistently engaging this peace process, appreciates this move by both parties with high hopes that this could also pave the way for the revival and return to the negotiating table as the peace process is, for us, still the best option to move forward a just and lasting peace in the whole country.

We reiterate our view that to progressively address the roots of armed conflict in the country, the parties should take a closer look at the issues of social inequalities and injustices such as extreme poverty, marginalization, discrimination among others, as these are the real enemies that have not ceased to haunt our peoples and communities even as the violent conflict between the GRP and the CPP-NPA raged in the past decades. Unless we summon enough courage and will to address these social injustices that drive people to rebellion, we will never have a meaningful peace and genuine social progress in our country.

To complement each other’s efforts or collectively address the COVID19 pandemic could be a starting point to forge just peace and national unity based on principled compromises and dialogue. Given the limited period of the ceasefire declaration of both parties, we respectfully urge them to also tackle, even remotely, the substantive agenda of the talks, which have already gained remarkable results before its termination. We pray that both parties consider extending their ceasefires beyond April 15 and work towards arriving at a longer and lasting joint ceasefire and a just, negotiated political settlement. 

Also, we urge both parties to strictly monitor the implementation of their respective ceasefire declaration on the ground as there were already reports of armed clashes between troops of the Philippine Army and NPA rebels on March 28 in Rodriguez Rizal. This incident may jeopardize the ceasefire agreements and may unnecessarily derail the nationwide emergency response initiatives of both camps. 

We reiterate our position that all efforts at this particular moment must be towards containing the pandemic and finding concrete solutions to this common problem. Ceasefires will allow humanitarian aid to reach the most vulnerable communities, and can open corridors for dialogue and coordination for efficient emergency response.

Bringing peace to the country amid the pandemic symbolizes our collective responsibility to fulfill our shared dream for a better nation that puts the primacy of the welfare, security and justice of the people at the core.

Amid the practice of physical distancing, this pandemic challenges us to collectively act and exercise greater social solidarity.