Philippines hopes for peace deal with rebels within a year as both sides kick off talks in Norway

(From left) Phillipine Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Silvestre H. Bello, Exiled Chief of the National Democratic Front of Philippines Jose Maria Sison, Elisabeth Slaattum from the Norwegian Foreign Minister´s office, Norwegian Foreign Mi
(From left) Phillipine Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Silvestre H. Bello, Exiled Chief of the National Democratic Front of Philippines Jose Maria Sison, Elisabeth Slaattum from the Norwegian Foreign Minister´s office, Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende and Phillipines Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza pose for photographers prior a meeting on peace negotiations in Oslo, on August 22, 2016. Norway is hosting the peace negotiations between the Philippean government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.PHOTO: AFP
Filipino Communists hold banners and flags as they march along a street during a spontaneous rally for peace talks in Manila, on Aug 20, 2016.
Filipino Communists hold banners and flags as they march along a street during a spontaneous rally for peace talks in Manila, on Aug 20, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

OSLO (AFP) - The Philippine government said on Monday (Aug 22) it hoped to reach a peace deal with communist guerrillas within a year, as the two sides kicked off talks in Norway aimed at ending one of Asia's longest insurgencies.

"On the part of the (government) panel, we have imposed a timeline of nine to 12 months," Mr Silvestre Bello, the government delegation's head of negotiations, told reporters. "With this new approach we are quite confident that we will be able to achieve our timetable."

The government and the rebels hope to breathe new life into the peace process by discussing simultaneously - contrary to previous attempts - the outstanding issues of social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and an end to hostilities.

The head of the rebels' delegation, Mr Luis Jalandoni, confirmed the timetable but was more cautious in his optimism about reaching a political settlement after 30 years of failed talks.

"I think we will try to do it in one year but it might take a little more time because the negotiations on social and economic reforms could take more time," he told AFP.

"It's more complicated than some may think," he said.

Established in December 1968, Communist Party of the Philippines launched a rebellion three months later that has so far claimed the lives of 30,000 people, according to official estimates.

The New People's Army (NPA), its armed faction, now counts just 4,000 members, down from 26,000 in the 1980s, though it enjoys the support of the poorest people in rural areas.

The closed-door talks in Oslo wrap up on Friday.