THE GOVERNMENT and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the lead communist group in the country, have announced a ceasefire from December 23 to January 7 in observance of the Christmas and New Year holidays, and pave the way for the resumption of peace talks. “The ceasefires are intended to generate a positive environment conducive to the holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations,” the two parties said in a joint statement released on Dec. 22. “The Parties shall separately issue the corresponding ceasefire orders. During the ceasefire period, the respective armed units and personnel of the Parties shall cease and desist from carrying out military offensive against the other,” reads part of the statement, a copy of which was released by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. The joint statement was signed last Dec. 21 in Utrecht, The Netherlands by Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, the government panel’s chief negotiator for peace talks, negotiator Hernani A. Braganza, NDFP Senior Adviser Luis G. Jalandoni, and NDFP Negotiating Panel Chair Roel V. Agcaoili.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, said its forces will remain on full alert status, but will abide by the ceasefire order once issued by President Rodrigo R. Duterte. “Kung sakali man aprubahan ito ng Pangulo at isakatuparan ay susunod ang PNP (If this is approved by the President and enforced, the PNP will abide by it,)” PNP Spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard M. Banac said in a radio interview over dzBB yesterday. The PNP went on a 21-day nationwide full alert status starting Dec. 14 as part of its security measures during the Yuletide season. Police forces are on the lookout for possible attacks by the New People’s Army, the armed groups of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is celebrating its founding anniversary on Dec. 26. — MSJ with a report from PHILSTAR/Emmanuel Tupas