Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte scraps peace talks with communists
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday evening his government is pulling out of peace talks with the country’s communist movement, a day after he lifted the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the insurgents.
In an interview with the media in his hometown of Davao on Mindanao island, Duterte said his position to scrap the negotiations, which resumed when he won the presidency in June last year, will not change anymore throughout the remainder of his six-year term, unless a compelling reason to revive it “in the interest of the nation” comes up.
“I’ll just order the Philippine contingent – [led by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Processes Jesus] Dureza, [government lead negotiator with the communists Silvestre] Bello, and company – to fold up their tents and come home,” Duterte said.
The current talks are being held in Norway, which had been serving as third-party facilitator. The on-and-off negotiations began in 1987, around two decades after the communist movement started waging war against the government, including attacks on private businesses.
“I tried everything. As you can see, I walked the extra mile – released [communist] prisoners, released their leaders so they can go to Oslo to talk,” Duterte said. “Let it not be said that I did not try very hard.”
The communist group, whose armed fighters number no more than 4,000, based on military estimates, was the first to announce this week the lifting of its unilateral ceasefire with the government after the latter refused to release hundreds of their comrades in jail and amid alleged violations by the Philippine military. The resumption of the rebels’ offensives will take effect February 10.
The government, on the other hand, complained about the rebel group’s persistent attacks on soldiers and private entities despite the ceasefire, which both parties issued in August last year.
“I told the soldiers: go home to your camps, clean your guns, and prepare for the long struggle,” Duterte said. “I’d like to tell the Filipino people, peace with the communists might not come in this generation,” he added. The communists have been partly blamed for the country’s stunted development, and had been tagged officially as terrorists by the US government.