OSLO—The Philippine government and communist guerrillas have agreed to an indefinite ceasefire to facilitate talks on a peace deal, Norway, which is playing the role of intermediary, announced Friday.
“Representatives of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front Communist movement will sign on Friday Aug. 26, at 11:00 a.m. (0900 GMT), a joint declaration in which the two sides commit to unilateral ceasefires without a limitation in time,” the Norwegian foreign ministry said.
Norway is playing the role of go-between in the talks, which aim at ending one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies.
The Communist Party of the Philippines launched a rebellion in 1968 that has so far claimed the lives of 30,000 people, according to official estimates.
Its armed faction, the New People’s Army, is now believed to have fewer than 4,000 gunmen, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, when a bloodless revolt ended the 20-year dictatorship of late President Ferdinand Marcos.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office on June 30, has made resumption of the talks a top priority.
His government said Monday it hoped to reach a peace accord within a year.
The two sides hope to breathe new life into the process by discussing simultaneously the outstanding issues of social and economic reforms, political and constitutional changes, and an end to hostilities.
Previous peace talks have addressed one issue at a time.
The NPA on Friday released three more police officers, the last of what it calls prisoners of war.
The officers were identified as PO1 Richard Yu of Carmen, Surigao del Sur, PO1 Michael Grande of Banaybanay Municipal Police Station in Davao Oriental and Sr. Insp. Arnold Ongachen of Governor Generoso, Municipal Police Station, Davao Oriental.
Yu was released in Tandag, Surigao del Sur while Grande and Ongachen were turned over to Senator Manny Pacquiao at Calapagan, Lupon, Davao Oriental.
The commander of the 10th Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, welcomed the release of the police officers.
He said when the government declared a ceasefire with the communist rebels, his troops were immediately advised to withdraw all offensive military operations.
He said the military also welcomed the declaration of an indefinite ceasefire starting Thursday.
The government and the rebels agreed Thursday to work on six major points, with talks expected to resume during the second week of October as part of the accelerated timetable to complete work on the substantive agendas.
The six issues, which will be tackled by different working committees, are: 1) the reaffirmation of previously signed agreements; (2) reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) list; 3) acceleration of the formal talks in the peace negotiations; 4) release of political prisoners; 5) amnesty proclamation by President Rodrigo Duterte and 6) mode of interim ceasefire.
Malacañang on Friday welcomed the decision of both negotiating panels to accelerate the discussion on socio-economic reforms.
“We are happy that the ongoing peace process in Oslo where both parties agreed to work on the [socio-economic reforms] with six months,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
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