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The Philippine government has announced its intention to restart peace negotiations with the country’s communist rebels, aiming to put an end to longstanding civil conflict.
The negotiations will involve the New People’s Army (NPA) and the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), marking the first engagement between the parties in six years. Both sides and Norway (which has been facilitating the peace process for approximately two decades) released a joint statement. They said, “The parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict.” The talks aim to address “deep-rooted socioeconomic and political grievances” with the goal of transitioning the rebels into a political movement, as stated by Norway.
Despite this development, the Philippine government has not declared an immediate ceasefire and will continue operations against the NPA. Military chief Romeo Brawner expressed optimism that a peace agreement would allow the armed forces to shift focus to external defense.
The announcement by the current administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. comes shortly after an amnesty order was issued for several rebel groups, offering absolution for crimes committed “in pursuit of political beliefs.” This amnesty extends to former members of the CPP, NPA, and NDFP.
The conflict with the NPA, which began over 50 years ago and reached its peak in the 1980s, has resulted in over 40,000 deaths. While the NPA’s numbers have dwindled from 26,000 to a few thousand fighters, the group continues to engage in armed conflict, including ambushes against perceived state collaborators.
This renewal of peace talks follows a series of attempts since 1986 to resolve the conflict, including negotiations with the NDF, the NPA’s political arm based in the Netherlands. The last formal talks, conducted under former President Rodrigo Duterte, were terminated in 2017.