MANILA, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said the government may restart formal talks with the leftist rebels in July.
In a speech made late Thursday night in Cebu province, Duterte said he is in talks with Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison who is living in exile in The Hague, the Netherlands.
"We will start the talks maybe in mid-July," Duterte said. He did not elaborate.
However, Sison told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a major Philippine English newspaper, that the on-and-off talks between the government and them will take place in June, not July.
"The formal talks are expected to resume on June 28 in Oslo and lead to the signing of the interim peace agreement," the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Sison as saying.
Sison's statement echoed that of Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, who also serves as government peace panel chairman.
Last month, Bello expressed hope that the formal resumption of peace talks "could happen in the first or second week of June." At the time, he said there are ongoing "backchannel talks" to meet the timeframe set by Duterte.
Since 1986, the Philippine government has been trying to reach a peace deal with the leftist rebels but has failed to make any headway.
The leftist rebellion began in 1969 and reached its peak in 1987 when it boasted 26,000 armed guerrillas.
However, the movement has since dwindled due to differences in strategy and tactics and the arrests of many of its top leaders in the late 1980s. The government estimates the number of the armed rebels at around 3,700 as of the end of 2017.