PH gov't, communist rebels to sign ceasefire deal


Posted at Aug 26 2016 03:45 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2016 12:37 AM

Exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines Jose Maria Sison (L), Philippines government official Joey Fornier and Philippines' presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza (R) take a selfie photo during peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Oslo, Norway August 22, 2016. Berit Roald

OSLO - The Philippine government and Maoist-led rebels will sign an indefinite ceasefire agreement on Friday as part of efforts to end a conflict that has lasted almost five decades and killed at least 40,000 people, Norway said.

Norway's Foreign Ministry, hosting the talks, said the ceasefire would be signed at a ceremony at 0900 GMT in Oslo, extending a truce in place since last weekend for the Oslo meeting which began on Monday.

Representatives of both the government and communist guerrillas would sign a joint declaration committing "to unilateral ceasefires with no time limit", it said. The talks in Norway are the first formal meeting in five years.

"The joint declaration, which has been negotiated in Oslo in recent days, marks the resumption of formal negotations between the new government in the Philippines and the (rebel) National Democratic Front of the Philippines," it said.

Norway has had a role as facilitator for the peace process since 2001. Fitful peace talks have been going on since 1986.

New President Rodrigo Duterte says he wants to end guerrilla wars with both communist and Muslim rebels that have been hampering economic development.

The 3,000-strong New People's Army, the armed wing of the communist party, operates mainly in the east and south of the Philippines. 

WATCH: Panelists at the formal talks in Oslo speak prior to the signing of the ceasefire deal. Video by Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN. 

Ready to move forward

In separate interviews, some of the panelists in the peace process are in agreement that the ongoing talks are a stark improvement in the road to peace between the NDF and the Philippine government. 

Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison described the peace process as the easist and most substantive level of talks for a long time, saying that previous administrations had made it harder for their peace talks to continue. 

"Palagay ko dahil sa political will and determination ng mga principals ni Presidente Duterte at ng NDF leadership. Kasi 'yung mga nakaraang paguusap... may utos ng principal sa panelists nila na pahirapan ang paguusap kung hindi susuko [I think it's because of the political will and determination of the principals under President Duterte and the NDF leadership. It's because during previous talks... there was an order from the principals to make it harder for us to pursue the talks if we don't surrender]," Sison said. 

Satur Ocampo, who serves as consultant for the NDF panel, also stated that the resumption of the talks was a clear indication of the positive attitudes of all the panelists, most of whom he said were veterans of the peace talks. He also lauded Duterte's intentions. 

"Merong record si Duterte bilang mayor at ngayon bilang president na determinado siya sa isang layunin [Duterte has a record as mayor and now as president that he'll really pursue the peace goal]," Ocampo said. 

Husband and wife Benito and Wilma Tiamzon said that while the mood of the resumption of the talks have been positive, the talks still have a long way to go. 

"Mahaba-haba pa rin ang proseso pero magandang simula itong promal na paguusap. Sa palagay ko nailatag naman mga proseso paano mapo-proceed yung peace talks. Basta nagmo-move forward, buti than no movement [It's still going to be a long way but this is a good start. I think we have been able to lay down the procedures. This is better than no movement at all," Wilma said. 

-- With reports from Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN News Europe-Middle East Bureau chief