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The Philippine government and the country’s communist rebels agreed Tuesday to restart peace talks in an effort to end the decades-long civil conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people in the Southeast Asian nation, Al Jazeera reported.
Authorities will re-engage with the New People’s Army (NPA), the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), for the first time in six years, according to a joint statement by both parties.
Norway, which has mediated the peace process for around 20 years, said that if the negotiations succeed, the rebels will lay down their weapons and transform into a political movement.
However, no ceasefire has been announced and the government added that will continue its operations against the NPA. Still, military leaders expressed hope that a future peace agreement would allow the Philippines’ armed forces to fully focus on “external or territorial defense,” rather than domestic conflict.
The government and the NPA have been fighting for more than 50 years, with the conflict killing more than 40,000 people.
At its height, the NPA had around 26,000 fighters, but their numbers have decreased over the years as many rebels surrendered in exchange for financial assistance and livelihood opportunities.
Since 1986, previous governments have held talks with the rebels in a bid to end the violence. But the last formal talks took place in 2017 when then-President Rodrigo Duterte terminated them.
The renewal of talks came less than a week after incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issued an order granting amnesty to a number of rebel groups, including former members of the communist movement.
The amnesty order would absolve former members of the CPP, NPA, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines of crimes committed “in pursuit of political beliefs.”