President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his top officials to talk with National Democratic Front of the Philippines leaders Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni next week, Presidential Adviser for Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Sunday.
“President Duterte has tasked Secretary Salvador Panelo and me to meet with them in an informal chat,” Dureza said in a statement.
“The planned meeting with NDFP leaders Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni may take place next week in Manila.”
Dureza said the meeting will likely take place when he returns next week as he is heading to the United Nations.
“I am now on my way to head the Philippine delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, so the planned meeting may take place upon my return next week,” Dureza said.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo confirmed to the Manila Standard that he will be present in the meeting.
“Yes,” Panelo said when asked if he had been tasked by the President to represent the Duterte administration in a bid to push through the talks with the representatives of the communist rebels.
But the Palace has yet to issue a statement on what topics the government will bring to the table.
Agcaoili serves as the NDFP’s chairman and Jalandoni serves as its senior adviser.
The meeting will take place after the two negotiators announced they will return to the Philippines for possible talks with the President following the arrest of NDFP consultant Vic Ladlad.
An earlier statement said Agcaoili’s trip here would be in connection with their work in the Joint Monitoring Committee under an agreement with the government that seeks to preserve human rights during armed conflict.
He said his group, which includes NDFP panelist Coni Ledesma, had also been “invited to meet with the new Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines.”
“In this regard, we welcome the opportunity to meet with the President unless he does not want to or his military is against it,” Agcaoili said.
Last week, Duterte said he was open to meeting with the NDFP negotiators.
He said he had already called for a cluster meeting to facilitate the talks with the NDFP negotiators.
“When I go back after Papua New Guinea and Singapore, I will make the announcement. We will talk again,” Duterte said.
Duterte is out of the country attending the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Papua New Guinea.
He ordered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to head the Executive department in his stead.
Dureza had earlier assured the NDFP’s high-ranking officials that they would not be arrested on their return this month.
“Last time I checked, there was no pending warrant of arrest for Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni, so they will not be arrested―not unless they will break some laws in our country,” Dureza said.