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Peace talks with Reds intact, says Bello.

As far as government peace negotiators are concerned, the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) has remained intact even as the revolutionary group officially announced last week it was pulling out from the talks over its perceived ambivalence of President Duterte.

'It's not true they are quarrelling. Let's just say it's some sort of friendly [spat],' Silvestre H. Bello III, government's chief negotiator with the NDF, told the government-ran Radyo Pilipinas in an early morning interview on Wednesday.

He said the verbal tussle between Duterte and the Communist Party of the Philippines's founder, Jose Ma. Sison 'are like cajoling between friends.'

He said the talks were 'merely postponed' on the side of the government.

'The President would like to consult the different sectors on what kind of interim agreement was acceptable because the President would not like the interim agreement on a peace settlement to end up opposed by the Filipinos, that it would be rejected by Congress and that the Supreme Court may say that it was unconstitutional,' he added.

Bello also dismissed the exchange of tirades between Sison and Duterte as a word war common among parties in conflict. He, likewise, downplayed the burning of a construction vehicle outside Davao City this week.

'They are still in a state of armed struggle,' Bello said. 'But it is clear from the statement of [Peace Adviser] Jesus Dureza that the negotiations are still on.'

He, however, disclosed that despite rejecting the President's overtures for him to come to the Philippines for that 'brief window' of talking with him on the conduct of the talks, 'Sison is actually receptive of that travel and visit to the Philippines.'

'What's holding him back is about diplomatic concerns,' Bello said.

Sison has lived in political asylum in the Netherlands 'and when he leaves, maybe he would not be allowed to go back there.' Also, he added, the US government's terrorist tag on Sison remains and he could be arrested anytime any place.

'It's not true he suspected the sincerity of Duterte's offer,' he said. 'In fact, we already scheduled his likely visit to the Philippines by August.'

Bello added the President has given the government peace panel three months to conduct the consultations.

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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jul 12, 2018
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