Duterte, Sison hint at resuming peace talks in July

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(L-R) Pres. Rody Duterte, Joma Sison

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — The government may resume formal peace negotiations with communist rebels in July or even earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte and National Democractic Front (NDF) Chairman Jose Maria Sison said.

"I'm talking to Sison. We will start the talks maybe mid-, mga (around) July," Duterte said at the oath-taking of barangay officials in the Central Visayas region Thursday.

On Friday, Sison confirmed in a statement that the "peace talks shall have begun on June 28" in Oslo, Norway.

"That is close to July anyway," he said.

Both sides should first agree on a stand-down agreement or a halt of offensives which "creates a favorable atmosphere for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations and the interim peace agreement to be signed in Oslo hopefully on June 28," Sison added.

He reiterated a "neutral venue" like Oslo is the best place to hold negotiations, dismissing any plan to have it in Manila.

The possible resumption happens eight months after Duterte walked away from the talks in November 2017. He ended the on-and-off negotiations with communist rebels as both sides accused the other of launching attacks in violation of earlier interim ceasefire declarations.

The Duterte government is the sixth administration to talk with the NDF, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that has waged nearly five decades of insurgency against the government.