PH govt peace panel hails NDF move to stop Mindanao missions to let military focus on fighting terrorists

June 18, 2017 - 3:00 PM
NPA scouts in formation
NPA guerrillas in formation somewhere in Mindanao. FILE PHOTO, INTERAKSYON

MANILA – The Philippine government panel negotiating peace with the Left welcomed Sunday the National Democratic Front’s declaration of support in the fight to quell the Maute, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines (AKP) groups and other terrorist organizations that have laid siege to Marawi City and continue to wreak havoc elsewhere.

In a statement, government panel chair Silvestre Bello III said “The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army to pave the way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace.”

The NDF and Bello exchanged positive statements even as State troops clashed with a group of NPA rebels in Davao Oriental early Sunday morning, according to a report of the 28th Infantry Battalion. The government side said it bore no casualties and recovered several high-powered firearms.

Bello, concurrent labor secretary, said the peace panel appreciated the NDF’s declaration “to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to focus their attention on the war against terror groups.”

Such “voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF in solidarity with government against acts of terrorism augur well for the desired continuation of the stalled 5th round of peace talks as they provide, if sustained, the needed enabling environment favorable to moving the peace negotiations forward,” added Bello.

The GRP, meanwhile, continues to adhere to mutually acceptable principles enunciated in The Hague Joint Declaration, which was reaffirmed by both parties, the panel chief pointed out.

“Likewise, the Philippine government hereby unequivocally recommits its adherence to all previously signed agreements, including specifically, but not limited to, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Furthermore, the Philippine government commits to continue to maintain this needed enabling environment in step with the NDF’s own commitment to do the same,” said Bello.

The government panel thanked the Royal Norwegian Government for its “steadfast and indefatigable support and assistance to the entire process and for trusting that efforts are being exerted towards a final peace agreement.”

Clash in Davao Oriental

Despite the assurances of a halt to hostilities in Mindanao so the government can focus on fighting the Maute and other terrorist groups, State troops clashed with a group of NPA rebels in Davao Oriental early Sunday morning, said a report of the 28th Infantry Battalion.

Members of the 28th IB based in Mati City, Davao Oriental encountered the New People’s Army at Sitio Sayon, Barangay Kauswagan, Banaybanay town in Davao Oriental around 6:30 a.m., after residents told the Community Support Program (CSP) troops they spotted armed men at the periphery of their village.

As the government troops moved in, they chanced upon a group of men, and were fired upon by an undetermined number of suspected NPA members, said the 28th IB report.

The firefight lasted for 45 minutes and resulted in the recovery by government of one M16 High Powered Rifle, one AK47, one long magazine of M16, two magazines of AK47, 163 rounds of M16 ammo, one bandolier, one rifle grenade, 100 meter IED wire, one transistor radio ,one MOTOROLA radio, two cooking round pot, one combat boots, 25 kilos of rice, six backpacks, three hammock, three butane can, medical pharapernalia and subversive documents with high intelligence value.

No casualties were listed from the government side, but the military claimed the NPA incurred casualties, based on bloodstains scattered in the engagement area.

The CSP Teams in the area are constantly visiting the communities to follow up the livelihood projects being implemented by the Local Government Unit and Local Government Agencies thru the partnership of the 701st Infantry Brigade that covers the whole of Davao Oriental Province.

Colonel Reuben S Basiao INF (GSC) PA, Commander 701st Brigade, said in his statement: “the series of encounters is an indicator that your AFP is moving along the right track of reclaiming Davao Oriental and the adjoining areas of Compostela Valley province as conflict-manageable areas. These armed engagements coupled with the delivery of basic services would indeed free our province of insurgent’s presence before the end of the year.”