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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3011

Senator SIBRAA —Can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs inform the Senate about Australia's attitude towards the proposed ceasefire agreement between the Philippines armed forces and the New People's Army?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I inform the Senate that an agreement on a ceasefire was signed yesterday between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, representing the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army. The ceasefire will take effect for 60 days from 10 December. The ceasefire agreement provides for formal discussions on substantial aspects of the peace talks to begin within 30 days. The period of the ceasefire encompasses the scheduled date of the constitutional plebiscite, that is to say, 2 February.

There have been expressions of support from many sections of the Philippines, including by spokesmen for the armed forces, which of course is particularly significant. The Australian Government welcomes the announcement of a cease- fire and expresses the sincere hope that it will be effective. The agreement on a ceasefire will allow negotiations towards a peaceful resolution of the insurgency problem to continue. Genuine resolution of that problem in the Philippines is still however a long term prospect. The insurgency has complex political, social and economic roots and there are a great many difficult issues to be faced by the negotiators.

The view that we take is simply that any steps that contribute to stability in the Philippines are important. It is only on such a basis that genuine progress can be made in addressing the massive problems left over from the Marcos Administration.