The formal resumption of peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels will not proceed on June 28 as the Duterte administration wants to hold more consultations with the public.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza made the announcement on Thursday, saying it is important to get the support of the people in the process of finalizing a peace deal with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.
Dureza said it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who issued the instruction on Wednesday for government negotiators, in cooperation with the private sector, to engage the "general public as well as other sectors in government."
"Our peace efforts to succeed should have good support from the general public, hence, it is necessary that all efforts be exerted to inform and engage them in the same way as the government engages the rebels in addressing the root causes of conflict," Dureza said at a news conference in Malacañang.
"The almost 50 years of intermittent and oftentimes disrupted peace negotiations with the communist rebels across several presidencies need a close study for lessons to learn from to ensure that our 'last chance' to put a dignified closure to the armed rebellion will not be squandered away," he added.
Dureza said the government has already informed the NDF and Norway, the third party facilitator of the talks, about the development.
He added the government will have to make the “final call” on the resumption of negotiations.
"We are now at the cusp of some major breakthroughs in the peace talks hence the urgent need now to take deliberate steps to ensure that we do not falter. Just and sustainable and lasting peace will happen only when our people understand and support these efforts," Dureza said.
Dureza did not say if the concern raised by uniformed personnel during the command conference in the presidential palace was a big factor in the decision to push back the resumption of the talks.
Earlier in the day, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the military and police expressed concern that in the past, the CPP-NPA will take advantage of peace talks "to regroup and to strengthen their ranks."
Duterte has invited CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, who has been living in self-imposed exile in The Netherlands, to return to the Philippines so they can directly negotiate peace and oversee the talks during the 60-day period set by the chief executive himself.
Sison said he was willing to come home provided there would be significant development in the peace negotiations and his lawyers are satisfied with legal and security precautions.
Duterte has repeatedly assured Sison that he will be safe should he return to the Philippines and that he will be free to leave “unhampered and unfettered” even if the negotiations fell through.
The peace talks had been scuttled last November, which the government blamed on continued attacks by the rebels on government troops and civilians. — RSJ, GMA News