UPDATES TO ADD SISON QUOTES
By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – The Philippines’ top peace adviser insisted Monday that negotiations with a communist insurgency would be held as planned despite President Rodrigo Duterte calling off the government's unilateral ceasefire after a fatal ambush.
Duterte had declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed and political wings in his first State of the Nation address last week, only for the military to claim that New Peoples Army (the NPA, the CPP's armed wing) rebels had ambushed a Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit two days later, killing a government militiaman and injuring four others.
On Friday, Duterte gave the rebels until 5 p.m. Saturday (0900GMT) to declare a ceasefire, but with no response he called it off Saturday ordering all units to be on high alert.
Hours later, exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison said the CPP-NPA had expected to declare its own ceasefire at 8 p.m. Saturday -- three hours after failing to meet Duterte's deadline to match his truce.
“August 20 is the resumption of the peace talks. Unless, of course, something happens along the way,” Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza insisted Monday.
He told news broadcaster GMA that the government will consult with the military and other sectors on the communist groups’ announcement that a ceasefire would be declared when negotiations resume in Oslo, Norway.
He stressed all options will be explored in terms of the government's own ceasefire alongside the communist groups’ planned truce.
"Let us see… We will study all options… Let us see what the president will decide," he said.
Late Sunday, the CPP posted a statement on the official website of the National Democratic Front, the CPP’s political wing, saying that the time-frame for a ceasefire can be determined through negotiations.
"To further support peace negotiations, the CPP is willing to issue a unilateral ceasefire declaration separately but simultaneously with the Duterte government on August 20," the CPP said.
Sison, who has been living in self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987, criticized Duterte -- his former student at a Manila university -- for being “volatile” after the president called off the government’s ceasefire.
“As far as I am concerned, the August 20 to 27 formal talks will resume in Oslo," he was quoted as saying Saturday by the Inquirer news website.
Sison also insisted that government troops on the ground had continuing operations, including in southern Mindanao island where the fatal ambush occurred Wednesday.
“The NPA’s Southern Mindanao Command said Duterte’s ceasefire was non-existent to the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PNP [Philippine National Police],” he said. “They are not following the ceasefire order of their own commander in chief.”
Duterte has been making peace overtures to the Front since he started to campaign for this year's presidential election.
He has sought to bring the rebels back to the negotiating table in an effort to end a Maoist insurgency -- one of the world’s longest running -- that has claimed 30,000 lives since the late 1960s.