Bello: Duterte not abandoning talks with Red

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is not closing his doors for the possible resumption of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF), Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Thursday.

Bello, the government's chief peace negotiator with communist rebels, was confident that the Chief Executive does not "abandon" his pledge to the Filipino people to bring "lasting peace for our country" by coming up with a successful deal with the communists.

"When the President came in as our president, he made a very clear statement that his legacy to our country and our countrymen is a lasting peace for our country. So I don’t think that the President has abandoned that legacy," he told Palace reporters.

Bello issued the remark even after Duterte said on October 5 that the revival of talks between the government and the communist party was "not good for the country."

In a speech he delivered before the soldiers in Taguig City, the President said he was not inclined to continue the dialogue with the communist rebels as the New People's Army (NPA), the group's armed wing, does not stop fighting the state forces.

"We are fighting the New People's Army. At this stage, I am not ready to talk to them because it is not good for the country," Duterte said during the Philippine Army's 58th change of command rites.

The government was initially slated to resume the fifth round of talks with the communist leaders on May 27 to June 1 but it suspended the negotiations following the "serious challenges" both parties were facing.

In July, Bello announced that the canceled peace negotiations were about to push through in the third week of August but President directed the government panel not to resume talks because of the communists' apparent lack of sincerity in negotiating with his administration.

Duterte also said on his second State of the Nation Address that the communist group was the government's next target when the crisis in war-torn Marawi City ends.

Despite the cancellation of talks, Duterte is yet to issue a formal notice of termination of peace talks with the communist rebels.

Bello said peace talks remained "alive," even though the Chief Executive expressed apprehension over the resumption of negotiations.

He added that the government peace panel was just waiting Duterte's greenlight to push through with the peace dialogue.

"The talks are alive and we are just waiting for the President to give us the instruction to go back to the peace table," Bello said. (SunStar Philippines)
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