Philippines ceasefire talks with rebels delayed

The start of Dutch-hosted ceasefire talks to end a four-decade insurgency waged by communist rebels in the Philippines has been delayed to Monday, mediators said.

"The formal opening is now pushed to tomorrow," Helene Revhaug, spokeswoman for the Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution (NOREF), mediating the planned discussions, told AFP on Sunday.

"They are still working on the agenda setting for the (latest) round" of discussions, Revhaug added.

The talks are the fourth round to date between Manila and the National Democratic Front. Discussions have been on-off for 30 years but were restarted by President Rodrigo Duterte after he took office last June.

The insurgency began in 1968 in the poverty-stricken country and has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives according to the military.

The government says it wants a permanent ceasefire, although a week of negotiations on the outskirts of Rome in January ended without such a deal.

"The (front) believes it is possible at the soonest time to have a bilateral ceasefire agreement," chief rebel negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said in a statement issued late Friday from his exile in The Netherlands.

But the same day, chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello forecast "very difficult and exacting" talks with no guarantees for a breakthrough.

The National Democratic Front comprises several groups, the most prominent of which is the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose guerrilla unit is the 4,000-strong New People's Army (NPA).