Philippines, Communists aim for peace in 18 months

The Philippine govt and Communist rebels are aiming to sign a peace pact within 18 months.

Last Updated: Feb 22, 2011, 10:01 AM IST

Manila: The Philippine government and
communist rebels waging one of the world`s longest insurgencies are aiming to sign a peace pact within 18 months, the two sides said after holding landmark talks.

The parties released a joint statement late yesterday
following the end of a week of negotiations in Norway in which
they committed to try and sign a "comprehensive agreement" to
end hostilities came by June of next year.

"The two panels expressed satisfaction over the
achievements of the first round of formal talks," the
statement said.

The negotiations in Oslo were the first between the
government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) sides since
2004.

The communists have been waging a rebellion since 1969
and still have about 5,000 New People`s Army guerrillas based
in the mainly poor, rural areas of the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the
conflict, including dozens of rebels, civilians and security
forces over the past few months.

Analysts said before the talks began in Norway that
there was little chance of a quick end to the rebellion, with
the communists determined to overhaul the country`s economic
model and railing against corruption by the nation`s elite.
In his own statement released late yesterday, chief
government negotiator Alex Padilla said even he had begun the
talks with a "sense of dread" that they would be the
"beginning of a dead end".

"But we have taken the first step," Padilla said.

"We have agreed on a timeframe of 18 months to produce
the substantive agreements -- on socio-economic reforms, on
political and constitutional reforms, and on the end of
hostilities and disposition of forces, leading to a final
political settlement."

Nevertheless, Padilla expressed deep caution over the
many hurdles still facing the peace negotiators.

"It will be hard, harder, perhaps, than anything else
we have done in our lives to stay the course. Which, in the
first place, asks us to keep faith in the process. Are we up
to this?"

The next steps will include a range of lower-level
working group meetings over the next few months to coverissues such as as social and economic reforms.

PTI