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4th round of peace talks to focus on socioeconomic reforms, bilateral ceasefire

From left, representative of the communist movement the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Luis Jalandoni, Communist rebel negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, Norwegian Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum, Chief Philippine negotiator, Silvestre Bello III and Philippines secretary Jesus G. Dureza (Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), shake hands after signing a joint statement on what has been achieved in the third round of talks, in Rome, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. AP/Alessandra Tarantino, File

MANILA, Philippines (Philippines News Agency) — The government peace panel and the National Democratic Front (NDF) agreed to prioritize the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the bilateral or joint ceasefire agreement at the resumption of peace talks Monday in the Netherlands.

Adviser on Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza, in his opening speech at the Radisson Palace Hotel in Naordijk, said they consider the CASER as the “heart and soul” of the agreement.

“Today, we witness history. The talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF panel has never gone this far before. In this 4th round of peace talks, we shall tackle the heart and soul of the peace process, the CASER,” he said.

“We shall also work out a more stable bilateral or joint ceasefire agreement,” he added.

According to Dureza, they have already agreed on the final outcome of the talks—lasting peace and sustainable development.

“This is not a case of one party giving in or giving up. It is about finding an acceptable common ground that the bigger panel—the public—will accept and support,” Dureza pointed out.

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The road to peace is never a paved one. It will be full of bumps and bends. Let us stay the course,” he stressed.

He emphasized that it is “the wish of President [Rodrigo] Duterte to achieve a lasting, sustainable and principled peace.”

Duterte has set four preconditions to the resumption of peace negotiations.

These are: the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement; a stop to the alleged extortion activities of rebels; the release of all political prisoners; and the non-recognition of any territorial claim made by the communists.

The chief executive has said he is ready to use force against the communists if the talks fail. — Sammy Martin

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