MANILA (UPDATE) - Exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison refused calls by Malacanang for him to come home for the peace negotiations, but emphasized he was "willing to meet the President in any country near the Philippines."
Should the government and communist rebels concur on an interim peace agreement, Sison said he can meet with President Rodrigo Duterte in a nearby nation.
"It’s not yet time for me to go to the Philippines because (that would be) putting at risk the peace process but we can go further after the interim peace agreement to completing CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms)," Sison told ANC's Early Edition.
"After that I can go to Manila and meet the President there."
The Philippine Army, however, assured Sison of his security.
"The President has guaranteed his safety and the Armed Forces will guarantee his safety. If him coming home is a solution for us to end this 50-year-old insurgency then we welcome it," Philippine Army public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told ANC's Headstart.
"He should also be sincere of coming home. I think 50 years, he seemed disconnected already."
Sison believes the formal resumption of peace negotiations between government and communist rebels may be achieved within January or February next year of 2020.
Sison, however, said both camps must first reaffirm deals made since 1992, terminate President Rodrigo Duterte's order last March cancelling the peace talks, and negotiate the interim peace agreement.
The agreement is composed of general amnesty and the release of all political prisoners, the mutual approval of the articles on land reform and national industrialization on social economic reforms, and the creation of a coordinated unilateral ceasefire-monitoring committee, according to Sison.
"The reforms must be put forward, they must be agreed upon first up to a certain point to show that the Duterte regime is really changing for the better and not trying to get NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) into a trap in Manila," he said.
Sison, meantime, welcomed the appointment of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to the government's peace panel.
"If you have the Executive Secretary there, who is the alter ego and sometimes called the 'Little President' then things that need to be done by the President can be facilitated," he said.
"It's a good sign that President Duterte is inclined to have peace negotiations even if there’s a counter-manifestation from military hawks."
Sison added that the unilateral ceasefire would hold and may be extended if there are "clear assurances that the negotiations will be resumed."
The military earlier accused the left's armed wing, the New People's Army, of violating the ceasefire, which was set from 12 a.m., Dec. 23 until 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 7, 2020.
"There's nothing systematic and deliberate about the incidents. They happen to be the responsibility of military and police forces involved," Sison said, adding that the NPA had not yet received a copy of the ceasefire orders.
But the soldiers involved were on their way back to camp to "conduct active defense," Zagala said.
"That’s not a reason. Both parties signed that the ceasefire starts midnight," he said.
"If that’s the case then we can see Mr. Joma Sison has no control over his rebel forces, the more that we should be talking locally," Zagala added.
Government had pushed for local peace negotiations with communist rebels following the formal termination of national peace efforts.