Philippine government, communist rebels open new peace talks

AP News
Posted: Jun 14, 2016 8:16 PM

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The first day of peace talks between Philippine communist rebels and the incoming government of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has concluded Tuesday on an optimistic note.

Philippines Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza described the mood as "upbeat." Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison said he felt "elated."

"The ultimate goal for this meeting is maybe to come up with a consensus," Dureza told The Associated Press from the mountain-top hotel on the outskirts of Oslo where these preliminary talks are taking place.

President-elect Duterte takes office on June 30, so this delegation has no authority to commit to anything officially. But its mere presence signifies a change in Manila's approach to the rebels who have been fighting to establish a Marxist state since 1969 in one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.

"There are no red flags yet," Sison told The AP. "We were engaged in some kind of opening moves, in what you might call a chess game."

The talks involve implementing a cease-fire and an amnesty on both sides. Duterte has offered several Cabinet posts to allies of the rebels, who in turn have freed some kidnapped policemen to encourage the resumption of talks.

The Norwegian-brokered peace talks stalled early in outgoing President Benigno Aquino III's six-year term because of a dispute over the release of several rebels.