Duterte: Peace talks with communists may resume in July

FORMAL peace talks between the government and the communist group are expected to resume in July, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday night.

Speaking before the newly-elected barangay (village) chairmen of Central Visayas in Cebu, Duterte reiterated his commitment to peace negotiations with communist rebels, as he disclosed that he has been talking with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison.

“I’m talking to Sison. We will start the talks maybe mga (in) July,” Duterte said in his speech.

Duterte made the statement almost a month after chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd said that the talks could resume in early June after the two government and communist panels reached an interim peace agreement.

“There are ongoing backchannel talks and apparently there is a forward movement and our panel members, including the NDF panel members, have come up with a preliminary peace agreement,” Bello said as quoted by reports. The NDF is the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the CPP.

“Hopefully the formal resumption (of peace talks) could happen first or second week of June because we have a time frame,” he added.

In April, Duterte ordered his Cabinet secretaries to work on the resumption of peace talks with the communist movement “with clear instructions on the importance of forging a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while talks are underway,” according to his Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza.

Duterte, Sison’s one-time student, has also invited the 79-year-old leader to come home and that the communist group’s founder “has agreed.”

“I gave him a window of two months, very small. Make or break tayo dito… I will see to it and will personally maybe escort him to the airport if nothing happens in two months. I will allow him to go out. I will not arrest him because that’s word of honor,” the President said.

Sison said he was willing to come home provided there would be significant development in the peace negotiations and his lawyers were satisfied with legal and security precautions.

The peace talks collapsed in November 2017 after Duterte cited the communist rebels’ continued attacks against state troops despite ongoing negotiations.

The President then moved to declare the CPP-New People’s Army (NPA) a terrorist organization.

Duterte, however, had a change of heart, saying he would like to give peace another chance.

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