MANILA - (UPDATED) The government's chief peace negotiator said the Duterte administration will push through with localized peace talks with communist rebels despite a top communist leader's statement that they are again ready to go back to the negotiation table.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Sunday said they are only waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte to sign an executive order that will begin localized negotiations.
Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison earlier said he was leaving the resumption of peace talks up to Duterte, who has softened his stance against rebels last Friday.
"It's a good development. However, you have to remember that our President already decided that in the meantime we will try the other track of the peace negotiations, which is the localized peace talks," said Bello in an interview with ANC.
Sison had earlier explained that the standing policy of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines is to negotiate with the government anytime Duterte is ready to resume the talks.
But the communist leader called the Duterte administration's push for localized peace talks a "cheap trick" that has failed before. He said the localized peace talks are meant to divide the revolutionary movement.
"Localized peace talks are a cheap trick that was tried so many times before. The only time it seemed to succeed was in the period of 1948 to 1950 when the CIA maneuvered an amnesty proclamation," he told ANC Sunday.
Duterte has called on the rebels to surrender saying the government is ready to give them housing and job opportunities
"It's stupid for Duterte to think that the revolutionaries will just give up their arms and deliver themselves to the butchers," Sison said reacting to the President's call to the rebels to lay down arms.
Talks between the government and the Reds broke down last year as the administration cited continued attacks by the New People's Army against state troops despite ongoing negotiations.
The administration also suspended supposed backchannel talks citing the need for further consultation. Bello said the resumption of the backchannel talks will depend on the President's mandate.
"We are waiting for the executive order that will mandate the conduct of localized peace talks," Bello said.