Manila, communist rebels agree to restart peace talks

The government of the Philippines and the country’s communist rebels said in Oslo Tuesday they agreed to restart peace talks, with Manila saying it hoped for an agreement by the end of 2014.

Representatives of the Philippines government and of the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) — the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) — gathered near Oslo on Friday for informal discussions aimed at relaunching peace talks.

The two parties said formal peace negotiations would be held in Norway from February 15 to 21 and that they would observe a ceasefire on the ground during that period.

The talks will focus on economic and social reform, notably the agrarian reform called for by the communists.

“We do not underestimate the difficulties (ahead) but we are willing to seize the opportunity,” the head of the NDF delegation Luis Jalandoni told reporters.

Alexander Padilla, who heads the government negotiation team, said he hoped for a final peace deal “in three years” to put an end to what has become one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies.

“Now is the best time to reach an agreement, under the term of President (Benigno) Aquino,” he said.

A final peace deal in three years is “a time frame that we could work for”, Jalandoni replied.

The last formal peace talks between Manila and communist insurgents go back to 2004. The peace process was shelved in 2005, under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.