Philippines government, rebels to resume peace talks

January 19, 2017 12:00 pm

This handout photo, taken on October 9, 2016, shows representatives from the Philippines’ government and rebels shaking hands in Oslo, Norway. (Via AFP)

The Philippines’ government and the country’s Maoist rebels have planned to restart Norway-brokered peace talks amid threats by the communist guerrillas to end a months-long ceasefire if an accord on human rights in the Southeast Asian country is violated.
Jesus Dureza, the Philippines’ presidential peace adviser and negotiator, said the government is optimistic “with managed expectations” about the resumption of the peace talks in the Italian capital of Rome on Thursday.
“These issues, although difficult, are surmountable with both sides sharing common aspirations for peace,” Dureza said in a statement.
The two sides had previously agreed to organize a meeting between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Jose Maria Sison, a rebel leader who is currently in self-exile in Europe, to end decades of hostilities.
Fidel Agcaoili, the rebels’ chief negotiator, said that the guerrillas had raised a number of complaints, including alleged government breaches of a 1998 accord on respecting human rights and another pact on the safety of guerrilla consultants.
He also expressed concern over Duterte’s brutal crackdown on illegal drugs, which have left thousands of drug suspects dead. Agcaoili argued that innocent people had lost their lives in Duterte’s crackdown “due to brutal, reckless and indiscriminate methods employed by the police in its anti-drug operations.”
The chief negotiator also said the Philippine government’s failure to release nearly 400 rebel detainees would make extending a five-month truce “untenable.”
About 30,000 people have been killed since the communists started their insurgency in the Philippines in the 1960s. The military says the so-called New People’s Army, the communists’ armed wing, has fewer than 4,000 gunmen today, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s.
Talks with the rebels collapsed in 2013 after the government of former president Benigno Aquino refused to release some key rebel commanders.
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