According to his post on Facebook, on his visit to the Vatican, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza asked Pope Francis to bless the Philippines and the pontiff replied, “I will also bless your president”.
Dureza went to Rome together with some members of the Philippine government delegation to conduct the third round of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, including Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and peace panel member Hernani Braganza.
During the baciamano (a kiss on hand as a sign of respect), Dureza handed over a letter from Duterte to the Pope.
Duterte expressed in his letter the assurance of his highest esteem and respect to the pontiff.
The meeting between the government and the NDFP will start on Thursday, January 19 until the 25th. The panels are set to address the suggested reforms in the country's socio-economic policies, political system, and the1987 Constitution.
"President Duterte has instructed the government panel to work for an early settlement of the issues as he calls on the nation to provide support to the efforts to ultimately bring peace in the land," Dureza noting the orders of the president.
Having changed its timeline recently extending the peace talks for two more years, Dureza remains hopeful for the government to reach an accord with the NDFP.
"These issues, although difficult, are surmountable with both sides sharing common aspirations for peace," he said.
Being the third party facilitator of the talks, the Norwegian government approved moving the venue to Rome following the request of the negotiators who previously joined the peace talks in Oslo as many of them got sick because of Norway's cold climate.
Dureza also added that with the hosting and facilitation of the Norwegian team headed by Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum, he is optimistic that possible significant progress in the third round of talks will be achieved.