President Corazon Aquino, responding to a proposal by Communist insurgents for cease-fire talks, announced Thursday that she will appoint a special emissary to begin negotiations with rebel forces.
Presidential spokesman Rene Saguisag said the decision came after the government received a two-page statement from the underground National Democratic Front declaring its readiness to enter a dialogue aimed at ending armed hostilities.
Saguisag said Aquino "is in the process of selecting an emissary to get in touch with the opposite numbers, so to speak, of the National Democratic Front."
The National Democratic Front is the political wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines. The Communist Party's military arm, the New People's Army, has an estimated 16,000 armed troops operating in most of the country's 74 provinces.
Saguisag said the negotiations may be hindered if the rebels insist that U.S. military installations be ordered out of the country.
'Ground Rules' on Bases
"If there is insistence that the bases be removed or dismantled immediately, obviously there's no point in going any further because this government is committed to honoring the bases agreement until 1991, and at that point Mrs. Aquino keeps her options open," he said.
"Those are the ground rules," he said. "Otherwise, it's a clean slate. The idea is reconciliation based on justice."
Aquino, who has called on the rebels to lay down their arms and help rebuild the nation after the 20-year rule of Ferdinand E. Marcos, met visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Francisco Fernandez Ordonez at the presidential palace Thursday.
Saguisag said the Spanish envoy assured Aquino that Spain will not grant asylum to Marcos, who has been in exile in Hawaii since his Feb. 25 ouster but is believed to be searching for a home elsewhere.
Saguisag said the government received the National Democratic Front statement, dated March 31, on Thursday morning. News agencies received it earlier in the week.
"The National Democratic Front and its member organizations, which include the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing, the New People's Army, are ready to dialogue with the Aquino government on a possible cease-fire," the rebel statement said.
A rebel news agency quoted ranking National Democratic Front leader Antonio Zumel as saying that the New People's Army "imposed no conditions for the cease-fire."
"Until now, no approaches--formal or informal, direct or indirect--have been made by the government," Zumel said.
Despite an apparent willingness to discuss a cease-fire, the New People's Army has continued to mount attacks on government troops. At least 369 people, mostly security forces and civilians, have been killed since Aquino became president five weeks ago.