MANILA - Government’s chief negotiator in the suspended talks with the Left on Thursday said the negotiations are still alive, even while President Rodrigo Duterte himself has expressed doubts that the protracted communist insurgency could be resolved within his term.
Government peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III said the cancellation of the fifth round of talks and the backchannel talks did not mean the entire peace talks are over.
“That did not mean that the talks were cancelled 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,” Bello said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“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. I don’t think that the President has abandoned that legacy,” he added.
Bello said he has yet to talk to the President regarding the status of the peace talks.
“We are just waiting for the President to give us the instruction to go back to the peace table,” he said.
In a speech last week, Duterte dashed hopes that peace between the government and the country’s communist rebels could be achieved within his term.
Duterte said his successor may be the one to hold talks with communist rebels as he is no longer inclined to engage the group.
Left-leaning groups had welcomed the electoral victory of Duterte, a self-proclaimed socialist, in hopes of pursuing talks with the government and instituting social reforms anchored on their ideologies.
Peace negotiations between the government and rebel sides, however, broke down earlier this year following a string of attacks against state troops allegedly committed by the NPA.
The President has been at loggerheads with left-leaning groups since the collapse of talks.
Duterte had warned that he might declare nationwide martial law if the communist threat would grow. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana later clarified that it was "very remote" as communist forces in the country have significantly weakened.
The collapse of the peace talks and the Commission on Appointments' rejection of left-leaning Cabinet appointees Judy Taguiwalo and Rafael Mariano prompted the leftist Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives to bolt the chamber’s super majority last month.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza has said there has been no formal termination of the peace talks yet.
Early in his term, Duterte had vowed to achieve peace with the communist movement, which has been waging Asia's longest-running insurgency.