MANILA - Suspended peace negotiations between communist rebels and the government may resume in 2 months, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said Wednesday.
"It's only a matter of time na pagkasunduan ang paggawa ng fifth round the talks... In 2 months, posible na," the Netherlands-based Sison told ANC in a Skype interview.
The CPP last May criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for declaring martial law in Mindanao after terror groups stormed Marawi City.
Rebel leaders then ordered their armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to ramp up operations and intensify recruitment.
This did not sit well with the government peace panel, which in turn suspended the 5th round of talks with the communist leaders in The Netherlands.
The President himself also warned communist leaders abroad of arrest. "Do not attempt to come home. I will arrest all of you and throw you to the slammer," he said.
Despite the recent developments, Sison claimed that state and rebel negotiators have sustained back channel talks and continued to show "common determination" to end the nearly 5 decade-long Maoist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
"May common determination na ipinapakita ang 2 panig para sa mga pag-uusap. Dapat huwag magulat kung sa maiksing panahon, may announcement ang magkabilang panig na in principle, hindi nakansela ang peace negotiations kundi na-hold back lang iyung fifth round," said Sison.
(The two sides are showing common determination for the talks. We should not be surprised if in a short time, both sides will announce that in principle, the peace negotiations have not been cancelled but merely held back.)
Sison also said a ceasefire between government troops and the NPA is in effect in specific Marawi conflict areas.
"Sa mismong lugar na ginagawan ng mga terorista tulad ng Maute at Abu Sayyaf ng gulo, doon may effective ceasefire. Pagkatapos, sa kabuuan ng Mindanao mayroong determinasyon o intensyon ang 2 panig na mag-refrain sa labanan," he said.
(We have an effective ceasefire in areas where Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters are holed up. In the whole of Mindanao, there is an intention on the part of both sides to refrain from fighting)
The CPP, he added, has offered to help security forces in mopping up, holing and blocking operations in Marawi.
"Presidente Duterte, he accepted, he welcomed the offer of help eventually but he said na kaya na ng Armed Forces na labanan ang Maute," Sison said.
Operations are ongoing to quell the rampage of local terrorists, whom the President said aimed to create an Islamic province in Mindanao.
As of Tuesday, the number of security forces and civilians who had died in the battle for Marawi officially stood at 58 and 26, respectively. The death toll of militants was at 202.