PEACE negotiations between the government and the communist rebels were still “alive,” government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd said on Thursday.
Bello, during a press conference in Malacanang, said President Rodrigo Duterte would not abandon the peace process with the communists despite the Chief Executive’s pronouncements that he no longer wanted to talk peace with the rebel group.
“The talks are alive and we are just waiting for the President to give us his instruction to go back to the peace table,” Bello told reporters.
“If you recall when the President came in as our president, he made a very clear statement that this legacy to our country and our countrymen is a lasting peace for our country. So I don’t think that the President has abandoned that legacy,” he added.
Bello issued the statement after Duterte dashed hopes that peace between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) could be achieved within his term.
The President said the communist group may have to wait for another president for peace negotiations.
“At this stage, I am not ready to talk to them (CPP-NPA-NDFP) because it is not good for the country… the way that it is now, ayaw ko (I don’t like) and maybe it would take some time to, maybe another president, to do it,” Duterte said at the Army’s change of command ceremony in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on October 5.
Peace talks resumed in 2016 under the Duterte administration. Negotiations reached fourth round of talks.
The fifth round scheduled from May 27 to June 1 was cancelled by the government after the CPP ordered the NPA, its armed wing, to step up offensives against government forces implementing martial law in Mindanao.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, the same day the Maute terrorist group attacked Marawi City where fighting continues.
In July, Duterte told the government negotiating panel to drop the talks unless the NPA stopped its attacks on government troops and its illegal activities like extortion, and a bilateral ceasefire agreement was signed.
In September, Duterte said he was open to resuming talks with the communists but would have to consult his security advisers.