The Philippine government of President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an indefinite ceasefire agreement with the National Democratic Front (NDF) Communist movement.
Norway, which has been playing an intermediary role in the talks on a peace deal since 2001, announced the agreement, which was made during a meeting in the Norwegian capital Oslo on Friday.
“Representatives of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) Communist movement will sign on Friday August 26, at 11:00 am (0900 GMT), a joint declaration in which the two sides commit to unilateral ceasefires without a limitation in time,” the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said.
Resumption of the peace talks has been a high priority of the administration of President Duterte, who took office on June 30.
The next meeting between the sides is scheduled for October 8 in the Norwegian capital.
“There is a clear plan to accelerate the peace negotiations,” said Jose Maria Sison, the Netherlands-based exiled founder of the Communist party. He told reporters that the peace talks would cover political and economic issues and proposed reforms in the constitution. The negotiations would also pave the way for an amnesty for political prisoners.
The New People’s Army, which is the armed faction of the NDF and operates mainly in the east and south of the Philippines, currently has fewer than 4,000 gunmen.
The decades-long Communist rebellion has left some 40,000 people dead.
President Duterte has also adopted a tough stance against drugs-related criminal gangs wreaking terror and disrupting law and order. For the crackdown, the former lawyer-politician appointed his old friend, Davao City's police chief Ronald Dela Rosa, as the director general of Philippine National Police.
Dela Rosa had successfully mopped up drug gangs in Duterte’s criminal-infested hometown of Davao City, where he was mayor for more than twenty years, making it one of the safest cities in the country.
The crackdown on drug gangs has resulted in over 1,900 deaths, at least 756 killings of suspected drug offenders by police.
Last week, the United Nations lashed out at Duterte for the violent crackdown, urging the leader “to protect all persons from targeted killings and extrajudicial executions.”
The 71-year-old president, who the media have nicknamed The Punisher, lashed back at the world body calling the UN an “inutile” organization that has failed to carry out its mandate to address more important issues such as hunger and global peace.
Instead of “worrying about the bones of criminals piling up… you could have stopped all these wars and killings” in Syria and Iraq, the Philippines leader said.
“I do not want to insult you… United Nations, if you can say one bad thing about me, I can give you 10 (about you). I tell you, you are inutile,” he said.