Gov’t, Reds to resume talks in August

THE fifth round of peace talks between the government and communist rebels aimed at ending the decades-old rebellion in the country will resume in August, Labor Secretary Silvestre Belo III said Tuesday.

"The fifth round of talks that has been deferred will probably be realized by second or third week of August," Bello, the government's chief peace negotiator, told Palace reporters.

Bello made the statement after the government had canceled the peace negotiations with the communist rebels on May 27 to June 1.

Bello said that ahead of the scheduled peace talks, both parties set an informal meeting somewhere in Asia by the third or last week of July to discuss the proposed socioeconomic reforms and possible interim unilateral ceasefire.

"There will be an informal meeting and they will discuss mainly on the issue of socioeconomic reforms and the possible interim unilateral ceasefire," Bello said.

"They should talk so it would be clear when they start the dialogue in August and it will only be for submission to the panel for formal approval by the panels," he added.

Peace panels from the government and the communists suspended the talks following the "serious" challenges both parties are facing, including the communist group's armed wing New People Army's "offensive" attacks nationwide.

The NPA reportedly staged attacks in the southern Philippines, including Mati City, Davao Oriental; Calatrava, Negros Occidental; and Panabo City, Davao del Norte, despite the declaration of truce in Mindanao to pave way for the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.

The launched offensives of NPA bandits have earned government's apprehension to forge a peace deal with the communists, whose sincerity to maintain peace and order in the country has been questioned.

Despite this, Bello was optimistic that the two parties would be successful in bringing forth an "enduring and lasting peace for everyone."

"I'm the ever optimist. There is always a hope for peace process," he said.

"In the process, there will be humps and bumps but we will stay in the course of the process because there is no alternative. This is the best legacy that our President can give to our country -- an enduring and lasting peace for everyone," Bello added.

In a speech delivered at the 50th founding anniversary of Davao del Norte, President Rodrigo Duterte said he remains committed to pursuing peace negotiations with the communists but appealed to them not to give the government a “double-faced.”

The President warned that he would issue a directive to the security troops to fight with the communist rebels if they continue performing hostile activities.

“We can talk but do not give me a double-faced,” he said on July 1. “Now, the situation is different. If you fight with my police, if you shoot my soldiers, it will really be a war. If we engage in a firefight, then be it.” (SunStar Philippines)
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