The Philippines’ government and communist rebels in the country have agreed to resume peace talks and reinstate a ceasefire after a recent escalation of clashes.
Negotiators from the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) rebel group made the announcement in a joint statement on Sunday.
The government of President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier threatened to step up attacks on the rebel group.
But, Jesus Dureza, the presidential adviser on the peace process, said the government and the rebels would restart stalled talks early next month and discuss the terms of a broad ceasefire on which a general agreement had already been made during a two-day February meeting brokered by Norway.
The next round of formal talks will be held in April, and another round will be held in June, according to the joint statement by the government and the rebels.
Last week, Duterte threatened to wage an “all-out war” against the NDF guerrillas after they killed four policemen and wounded another in an ambush attack in the country’s southern Davao del Sur Province.
“I can assure you that the armed forces and the Philippine National Police would respond. This time, I’m using everything. I have encouraged the police to call in the air assets. Use our new jets. Make use of the rockets and bombs,” Duterte said at the time.
The rebels and the government had declared separate ceasefires last year, which allowed the government to withdraw troops from battlefields to focus on an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and other extremist outfits in the country’s south.
The resumption of the peace talks with the 4,000-strong communist rebel group has been a high priority for the government in Manila since Duterte took office on June 30.
The communist insurgency in the Southeast Asian country began in 1968 and is one of the longest-running in the world. It has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives, according to the military.
Talks with the rebels collapsed in 2013 after the government of former president Benigno Aquino refused to release some key rebel commanders.