Gov't, Reds agree to new talks, ceasefire

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 19 2012 06:46 PM | Updated as of Dec 20 2012 04:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Maoist guerrillas waging a decades-long insurgency in the Philippines have resumed high-level peace talks with the government after a 13-month impasse, it was announced Wednesday.

Meeting in the Netherlands capital The Hague on Monday and Tuesday the two sides also agreed to a 26-day nationwide ceasefire from December 20, according to a statement issued by Norway, which has been mediating the talks.

"As earlier agreed upon, they confirmed the nationwide ceasefire from December 20, 2012 to January 15, 2013. They agreed to meet again early next year," said the statement issued by Ture Lundh, a special envoy of the Norwegian government.

Chief Philippine government negotiator Alexander Padilla and two senior aides of President Benigno Aquino attended the meeting in the Dutch city, it said.

Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the communist insurgent movement, and its chief peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, led the other side, it added.

They also agreed to further talks on peace, human rights, land reform, and national industrialisation, the statement said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) pulled out of peace talks in November 2011 after Manila rejected rebel demands to free jailed comrades they claimed were consultants to the negotiations.

The two sides resumed low-level "backroom" negotiations in June, but the CPP continued to demand that the prisoners be freed and the government continued to refuse.

The statement made no reference to this earlier dispute.

Both the military and the CPP's guerrilla arm, the New People's Army, have declared separate, shorter ceasefires over Christmas, but the military says the rebels have already violated this by attacking government targets.

The communists have been waging an armed rebellion since 1969, and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government.

The military estimates the NPA's current strength at about 4,000 fighters, significantly down from more than 26,000 at its peak in the late 1980s, when the rebels also engaged in failed peace talks with Manila.

Though a nationwide movement, the military says most rebel activity in recent years has been limited to poor rural pockets to the southeast of Manila, the central island of Samar, and the eastern section of Mindanao island.