MANILA - Communist rebels are willing to sign a bilateral ceasefire deal with the government once they agreed on agrarian reform and national industrialization, in a move to convince President Rodrigo Duterte to return to the negotiating table.
Peace talks are in "suspended animation," said chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), after Duterte announced he would no longer negotiate with the rebels.
"Ang problema nga sa kanya is kita mo yung style nya, pabugsu-bugso sya e," he told ABS-CBN News.
(The problem with him, his style, he's impulsive.)
Agcaoili said an initial agreement on agrarian reform and national industrialization would have convinced the NDFP panel to sign a bilateral ceasefire, a condition set in the previous rounds of talks by Duterte.
"Alam naman ni Presidente yun. Hindi talaga kami papayag na magkaroon ng ceasefire, bilateral, na walang agreement on reforms."
(The President knows that. We will not agree to a bilateral ceasefire without an agreement on reforms.)
Reforming the agrarian sector, which includes free land distribution, and industrializing key industries are at the heart of negotiations on a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms (CASER).
Negotiations are also focused on political and constitutional reforms and the rebels "offered to found" a federal republic.
CASER is intended to address the root causes of the half-century rebellion which has killed around 40,000 people.
But Duterte was incensed by attacks by the New People's Army on government forces despite ongoing peace negotiations, calling the rebels "enemies of the state" in his July 24 State of the Nation Address.
Agcaoili said there had been no backchannel talks since Duterte's policy speech last month
But rebels still see possible openings with the President's decision to speak directly with leftist protesters right after his congressional address.
The government has not sent a letter formally terminating the talks. Neither has Duterte fired Cabinet members nominated by the rebels.
"That means it's possible that there could be a resumption of the talks," Agcaoili said. "Siguro kailangan magpalamig muna si Presidente."
(Maybe the President needs to cool off.)
Duterte asked protesters to give him time and vowed to deliver on his promises within the next five years of his term.
Agcaoili acknowledged that the President "would like to have reforms in Philippine society."
"Kung ano ang pwede nyang ibigay, pag-usapan natin, dalhin natin sa peace negotiations," Agcaoili said, signalling an important opening in the negotiations.
(What can he deliver? Let's talk about it in peace negotiations.)