The leader of the Philippines’ communist insurgency will be welcome to return home after nearly three decades in exile and participate in peace talks, president-elect Rodrigo Duterte has said. Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison wrote in a Facebook post last week that he hoped to come home following the landslide May 9 election win of Duterte, with whom he has maintained ties while living in the Netherlands. “I do not begrudge the NPAs [communist New People’s Army] in looking for firearms,” Duterte said at a press conference yesterday. “But when I reach my oath-taking ... they must realise I am the government and I am the enemy but I offer my hand in peace and we can talk.” Duterte saidon Sunday that Sison’s return to the Philippines would be important in helping to end the rebellion. The insurgency was one of Asia’s longest and has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives since the 1960s. “Yes, he is welcome. I am happy with the statement that he is coming home,” Duterte said in the southern city of Davao where he has served as mayor for most of the past two decades. “I would very much want to talk to him about resolving the insurgency problem.” Duterte also said communist figures would be considered for cabinet posts. Sison, 77, fled to Europe soon after peace talks failed in 1987 and has stayed abroad since, while one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies continued to claim thousands of lives. “I will return to the Philippines if Duterte fulfils his promise to visit me,” Sison said in comments posted on his Facebook page last week. The communists’ armed wing, the NPA, is believed to have fewer than 4,000 soldiers, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, according to the military. However it retains support among the poorest communities in the rural Philippines. According to the military, communists killed three soldiers in the central Philippines on Saturday, in the first outbreak of deadly violence between the two sides since Duterte’s election win. Duterte is due to be sworn into office on June 30. Incumbent President Benigno Aquino revived peace talks soon after taking office in 2010 but shelved them in 2013, accusing the rebels of insincerity in efforts to achieve a political settlement. The talks got bogged down after the communists demanded the release of scores of their jailed comrades whom they described as “political prisoners”, which the Aquino government rejected. Duterte, who was Sison’s student at a Manila university in the 1960s, said he was even willing to comply with the communists’ demand to release their captured members. “If I am satisfied we are dealing in good faith, I will consider releasing all political prisoners,” he said.