MANILA—Government is not obliged to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire offered by communist rebels, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Friday said.
In a chance interview, Bello said that what the Duterte administration is pushing is a bilateral ceasefire deal that will end the five-decade insurgency, which claims thousands of lives including innocent civilians.
He said the bilateral ceasefire which is more effective can be crafted during the fourth round of peace talks on April 2 to 6 in The Netherlands.
“Right now there is no reason to declare a unilateral ceasefire because our President is more interested in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” said Bello.
“I think we should concentrate more on this more important agreement because this is where
we will be assured of the lowering or the ending of hostilities, at the same time we are assured of the parameters and the terms of reference of the agreement,” he added.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced that it would issue a unilateral ceasefire not later than March 31, a statement Bello said would not be possible without the government declaration.
“I don’t think they will declare if we will not declare,” he said. “If they feel we are not prepared to declare one, then I don’t think we will proceed with the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire.”
According to Bello, Switzerland, Canada and Australia are willing to act as party facilitators for the bilateral ceasefire.
Duterte earlier scrapped the peace talks following the killing of soldiers after the insurgents terminated the ceasefire.
The labor chief, however, said the skirmishes were to be expected ahead of the peace talks, after the reds continued to sow terror.
“We are in a negotiation. When you negotiate, you must negotiate in a position of strength. Kaya pinapakita nila na mayroon silang lakas,” Bello pointed out.
He added there is no precondition for the resumption of the negotiations following Duterte’s statement that the rebels must stop collecting revolutionary taxes for the talks to bear fruit.
“I don’t think the President has ever imposed that as a condition. He only mentioned this as a possible term in the bilateral ceasefire agreement,” Bello concluded.