A stand-down agreement supposed to be simultaneously announced by the government and the Maoist rebels on Thursday has been delayed for a week to allow the government to ensure the participation of several consultants in the peace talks, Jose Maria Sison said Wednesday.
The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines said most of these consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines were expected to be cleared before Friday to join the talks.
“The stand-down will begin on June 21, a full week ahead of the June 28 resumption of formal talks in Oslo,” Sison told ABS-CBN News.
He made his statement even as President Rodrigo Duterte again reassured Sison of his safety in the Philippines even if the peace talks failed and that he would escort him to the airport to fly back to the Netherlands alive.
Duterte reiterated his invitation to Sison to come to the Philippines to resume the peace talks and said he would shoulder the cost of his plane ticket and hotel accommodation here.
“Should the peace talks prevail, then we would be lucky and I would thank God for it. But if not, I tell you that I will escort him to the airport and I will see to it that he will fly out alive,” Duterte said in his speech during the oath-taking of village officials in Pampanga.
“I don’t know about Sison, but I’m ready to give him the privilege of coming home. He does not have to worry about his safety,” Duterte said.
The government and the rebels were initially set to announce a stand-down deal on Thursday, two weeks ahead of the formal negotiations.
But Sison, who joined back-channel talks in The Netherlands last week, said the government sought the new schedule “to have more time for effecting the release” of six NDFP consultants.
Rafael Baylosis was detained earlier this year after the negotiations bogged down.
Benito Tiamzon, Adel Silva, Alan Jazmines, Randal Echanis, and Vicente Ladlad could also be arrested since their bail was canceled in connection with a government petition proscribing the CPP and its armed wing as terrorist organizations.
They were “needed for the polishing” of the coordinated unilateral ceasefire deal, which would form part of the interim peace agreement to be signed on June 28, Sison said.
Sison said the two sides would spend June 15 to 18 “polishing” the two other components of the interim agreements on agrarian reform and the nationalization of certain industries.
The stand-down agreement precludes government forces and the rebels from committing “any offensive action or operation against combatants and civilians.”
Both sides will also “stay where they are” and “take an active defense mode,” according to a copy of the deal obtained by ABS-CBN News.
The agreement will then be replaced by a clearer and more binding coordinated unilateral ceasefire deal once the formal talks resume.