The meeting kicked off in Oslo on Monday, two days after both sides agreed to a ceasefire and several years after a similar meeting was stalled amid disagreements between the two parties.
Both Manila and representatives of the rebels’ National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the country’s Communist Party, expressed optimism about the talks, which are intended to bring an end to an insurgency that began in the 1960s and had led to the deaths of some 40,000 people.
In July, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called off the initial ceasefire after rebels killed a government militiaman and then failed to meet his deadline to declare their own truce. However,the government reversed its position on Saturday after the rebels announced a ceasefire.
“There is fresh euphoria among our people about the prospects of peace negotiations,” said Jesus Dureza (pictured at top, left), the president’s advisor on the peace talks.
Hopes for progress
Meanwhile, the government’s choice to lead the peace talks said negotiators were pushing for a deadline of nine to 12 months. “We are quite confident that we will be able to achieve our timetable,” Silvestre Bello said.
The head of the Communist Party suggested the two sides could finally find common ground. “For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a president has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarchy and the folly of servility to foreign powers and by using street language and methods of the mass movement,” Jose Maria Sison said.
Initially, peace talks were set to take place in Oslo four years ago, but were called off after Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino, refused to release rebels being held by the government.
In addition to announcing the recent ceasefire, Duterte has also released around a dozen rebels in the hopes of moving peace talks forward.