MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte hinted Thursday at a chance to resume the government's peace negotiations with communist rebels as he ordered Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to talk to Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.
Duterte emphasized the need to keep channels of communication with rebels open, saying "the quest for longing for peace has always been there."
"I'm sending him (Bello) back to Sison," the President said during a situation briefing on the effects of typhoon Tisoy in Legazpi City, Albay, as he noted that Bicol has a "serious" insurgency problem.
Bello was the former chief negotiator for the government panel in previous peace negotiations with the rebels.
"He (Bello) should go there, talk to them, I cannot talk about it," the President said.
"This is my last card and when I say my last card, my time is running out," he added.
Sison, who is living in exile in the Netherlands, earlier said that it would take a "miracle" for Duterte to resume peace negotiations.
"If a miracle occurs that Mr. Duterte would like to have peace negotiations, I think the National Democratic Front of the Philippines would have to take his change of mind seriously," he said in September.
"But I think it’s too much now to expect Duterte will draw away from his scheme to become a fascist dictator."
Ties between Duterte and Sison soured last year after the President accused rebel troops of continuing attacks against government forces despite the ongoing peace talks.
Last March, the President formally terminated peace talks with the rebels, saying he would no longer entertain any "persuasions" from the communists.
Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 on Nov. 23, 2017 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines - Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army.
Another resumption was scheduled in late June last year but it was canceled as the government sought to review all agreements the communists signed with past administrations.
In December 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 directing the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”