Peace talks between the government and the communists are still “alive,” government peace panel chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said on Thursday.
Bello, also the labor secretary, said in a press briefing in Malacañang that the government has yet to send an official notice to dismiss the talks despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s statements that peace negotiations may not resume within his term.
“I don’t know basta the talks are alive and we are just waiting for the president to give us the instruction to go back to the peace table,” Bello said.
The secretary added that the president only withdrew the fifth round of talks in June and the backchannel discussions in July and not the whole process.
“But that did not mean that the talks were canceled or terminated. And we have been consistently saying that in order to terminate the talks, either of the parties have to serve the party with a written notice of termination. And the termination takes effect 30 days after receipt of that notice of termination,” he said.
The fifth round of talks was postponed on May 27 when the government panel pulled out from negotiation after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ordered New People’s Army rebels to strengthen attacks against the government forces.
In July, Duterte terminated the peace talks when the NPA performed attacks against the armed forces.
However, Bello also said that Duterte, who won the presidency on the platform of peace and order, would not abandon his vow to attain peace in the country.
“If you recall, when the President came in as our President, he made a very clear statement that his legacy to our country and our countrymen is a lasting peace for our country. So, I don’t think that—that the President has abandoned—abandoned that legacy,” he said.
It can be recalled that Duterte said the NPA should surrender first before the peace talks can revive the peace negotiations.
The CPP, in response, has rejected Duterte’s ultimatum for the communists to declare ceasefire first before the peace talks can resume.
Recently, the president said peace talks with the communists are worthless expenses.