Philippine government, communist rebels sign ceasefire deal

Philippines

Philippines

The Philippine government and Maoist-led rebels signed 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.

The agreement extends a truce in place since last weekend for the Oslo meeting, which began on Monday and is the first formal negotiating session over the conflict since 2011.

“There is a clear plan to accelerate the peace negotiations,” Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the Communist Party who lives in the Netherlands, told Reuters.

He said the ceasefire agreement included a timetable for talks about political, economic and constitutional reforms. The talks also mapped out a path towards an amnesty for political prisoners.

The two sides would meet again in Oslo on Oct. 8.

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.