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PH eyes bilateral ceasefire

The government would rather forge a bilateral ceasefire pact with the communist rebels during the upcoming peace talks instead of just declaring a unilateral truce, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said yesterday.

The two contending parties are expected to resume talks on April 2 to 6 in the Netherlands where the bilateral ceasefire agreement and socio-economic reforms are high on the agenda.

“Right now, there is no reason to declare a unilateral ceasefire because our President is more interested in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” Bello, also head of the government peace panel, said in a Malacañang press briefing.

“I think we should concentrate more on this more important agreement because this is where we will be assured of the lowering or ending of hostilities. At the same time, we are assured of the parameters and the terms of reference of the agreement. Kaya mas importante ‘yun, mas mahalaga po ‘yun,” he said.

The communist rebels earlier said they will restore the unilateral ceasefire ahead of the resumption of the peace talks with the government. In return, they have called on Duterte to order the military to go slow on its offensive operations against the rebels.

Bello said he expects the peace talks would be “very difficult and exacting” but remained optimistic of attaining a consensus on a bilateral ceasefire to end the hostilities on the ground. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)