MANILA (UPDATED) - The Philippine government has decided to push back the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels, citing the need to further consult the public, President Rodrigo Duterte’s peace adviser said Thursday.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Duterte instructed the government peace panel to engage “the bigger peace table, the general public, as we work to negotiate peace with communist rebels.”
Dureza said because of the President’s order, “the initial timeline our backchannel team worked across the table had to be adjusted.”
“Stakeholders on the ground must be engaged through consultations,” he said. “Lasting peace will only happen when people understand these peace efforts.”
Dureza, however, did not give a tentative date for the resumption of the peace talks.
Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison earlier said the peace talks will formally resume on June 28, with a stand-down agreement between the military and communist rebels to be enforced a week before.
But Duterte said he is not yet ready for a June resumption of peace talks.
“Sison said June. No, I’m not ready for that. I need more time,” Duterte said in a speech in Laguna during the oath-taking of newly elected barangay chiefs.
Dureza said the communist peace panel had already been informed of the decision to delay the resumption of the peace talks.
“The President said, ‘Let’s reset, give us time to work some more so whatever agreement we decide eventually will be implementable,’” he said.
Prior to Dureza’s announcement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the military and police, during their command conference with the President, aired concerns over the communist rebels’ tendency to “regroup” whenever there are peace talks ongoing.
Dureza did not say if the apprehension relayed by the government troops was a major factor in the decision to delay the resumption of the talks.
The talks fell through in November last year following clashes between government troops and communist rebels.
Duterte then moved to have the CPP - New People’s Army declared a terrorist group.
The President, however, had a change of heart, saying he would like to give peace another chance.
Sison, meanwhile, hit government's decision to postpone the talks, saying he was "exasperated."