MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is serious about resuming peace talks with communist rebels, national Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said on Sunday.
Last Dec. 5, Duterte ordered Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to meet with exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison, months after announcing the "permanent termination" of peace talks with communist rebels.
The President did not specify what Bello and Sison would talk about but said that "the quest for longing for peace has always been there" and that it was his "last card."
"I am of the understanding that the President sent Sec. Bello because he has gotten word that Jose Ma. Sison would like to tell him something," Esperon said in an interview with ANC.
Esperon said Duterte is serious about forging peace with the communist rebels, who have been waging an insurgency for more than half a century.
"The President has always said that he will always leave a window, no matter how small, for peace talks," Esperon said.
The military meanwhile will continue operations against the rebels until formal peace talks resume, the security official added.
Sison meanwhile rejected an earlier a demand by the government for the formal peace negotiations to be held in the Philippines.
"This precondition is totally unacceptable to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines because it aims to put the NDFP and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of the Duterte regime and under the control and surveillance of the bloodthirsty military and police who engage in mass murders and other heinous crimes with impunity," Sison said in a statement.