Duterte ends peace talks with Maoist rebels

Mr Duterte with the family of Second-Lieutenant Miguel Victor Alejo at the soldier's wake last Saturday, after he was killed by the NPA. Mr Duterte has condemned the insurgents for resuming hostilities.
Mr Duterte with the family of Second-Lieutenant Miguel Victor Alejo at the soldier's wake last Saturday, after he was killed by the NPA. Mr Duterte has condemned the insurgents for resuming hostilities.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Philippine leader angered by attacks on govt troops after insurgents called off ceasefire

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said peace negotiations with Maoist-led rebels would be scrapped, five months after both sides resumed talks to end nearly five decades of a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people.

Mr Duterte called off a unilateral ceasefire last Friday, two days after the New People's Army (NPA) did the same. He was incensed by the killings and abduction of government troops since the NPA lifted the ceasefire.

The tough-talking Mr Duterte said the communist leaders whom his government had freed temporarily to take part in peace negotiations overseas would go back to jail. "I will request tomorrow the Philippine contingent to fold their tents and come home," he told reporters.

Mr Duterte, a self-described socialist who had previously freed top communist leaders to jump-start the peace talks, angrily condemned the insurgents for resuming hostilities, saying he was ready for a prolonged conflict. "I told the soldiers to prepare for a long war. I said (peace) will not come during our generation," he said last Saturday.

"We have been fighting for 50 years. If you want to extend it for another 50 years, so be it; we will be happy to accommodate you."

However, he suggested the door was not closed completely. Negotiations would stop "unless there's a compelling reason... that will benefit the interest of the nation", he said.

Negotiators from both sides met in Rome to come up with a truce but failed when the rebels demanded the release of 400 more political prisoners, including a man who had killed a US army colonel in 1989.

They are due to return to the Netherlands in three weeks to resume talks on political, social and economic reforms, including terms of a bilateral truce.

The NPA ended its unilateral truce, accusing the military of violating its own ceasefire by occupying restricted areas. The ceasefires were fragile due to a lack of agreed rules.

The military, the NPA and government negotiators were hoping peace talks could resume, but Mr Duterte's latest comments suggest he has lost patience with a process he had made a top priority.

Mr Duterte last Friday ordered the army to hunt down the guerillas and accused the communists of negotiating in bad faith.

He accused them of continuing to recruit fighters, attack businesses and extort money from owners of plantations, mines and transport companies.

Organised in 1969 as a ragtag army, the NPA has been waging protracted warfare to overthrow democratically elected governments.

At its peak, the NPA had about 25,000 armed fighters, but is now down to about 3,000.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Duterte ends peace talks with Maoist rebels'. Print Edition | Subscribe