Negotiators from the Philipine government and communist rebel forces Monday resumed peace talks in Norway aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest-running leftist insurgencies, with the goal of reaching a deal in one year.
Both sides expressed optimism that the talks would be successful under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has stressed the need to end the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands.
“There is fresh euphoria among our people about the prospects of peace negotiations,” presidential adviser on the peace process, Jesus Dureza, said at the start of the talks.
Dureza noted that Duterte has taken “bold steps,” including the release of more than a dozen political prisoners and a ceasefire with the guerrillas, to ensure the success of the negotiations.
Silvestre Bello, the government’s chief peace negotiator, told reporters in Oslo that his goal was to complete the talks within one year.
“On the part of the (government) panel, we have imposed a timeline of nine to 12 months,” he was quoted by media reports as saying.
Bello said the two panels hope to achieve this deadline by simultaneously discussing outstanding issues on social and economic reforms as well as political and constitutions reforms.
Jose Maria Sison, founder of the rebel group the Communist Party of the Philippines, said he was optimistic about the negotiations because Duterte was determined to implement his promise of change.
“For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a president has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarchy and the folly of servility to foreign powers and by using street language and methods of the mass movement,” he said.
The peace negotiations had been suspended in 2012 after former president Benigno Aquino rejected rebel demands to free political prisoners.
More than a dozen communist rebels , including the chairman and secretary of the CPP, have been released on bail to join the talks in Norway.
The communist rebels have been fighting the Philippine government since the late 1960s. The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people, according to estimates.
The talks are separate from ongoing efforts to implement a peace agreement the government worked out with the Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.