President Rodrigo Duterte announces a stop to peace negotiations with communist rebels during a visit to troops engaged in battle with terrorist groups in Marawi on July 20. (Photo by Ace Morandante)
Peace negotiations aimed at ending almost half a century of communist insurgency in the Philippines collapsed this week after President Rodrigo Duterte said he was no longer interested in talking peace with the rebels.
"I no longer want to talk to them. They have killed many of my police. They have killed many of my soldiers," said the president in a speech during a visit to troops in Marawi on July 20.
Duterte announced that communist New People's Army rebels would be the next target of military operations after authorities address the ongoing conflict with terrorist groups in Marawi.
"After this, damn this war, once we finish off the [terrorists], we will reorient and go after the [New People's Army] because they owe us a lot. I don't want to talk to them anymore," said Duterte.
The president ordered a stop to ongoing peace talks with the rebels following attacks launched by communist guerrillas against government forces.
Two soldiers were killed and five others, including four of Duterte's security escorts, were wounded in recent attacks launched by the rebels in the provinces of Palawan and North Cotabato.
It is not the first time that Duterte has halted peace negotiations with the communists. In February, he also stopped the talks after the rebels announced they are lifting a unilateral ceasefire.
Exiled rebel leader Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said the peace process seems not to be necessary at this time because of the government's "obsession with martial law and mass murder."
Duterte declared martial law across the southern Philippine region of Mindanao following terrorist attacks in the city of Marawi that resulted in the displacement of some 300,000 people.
In a statement from the Netherlands, Sison said there is really "no need" for the negotiations if the government continues "to frighten in vain the revolutionary forces into surrendering and giving up their revolutionary struggle."
The Philippine military, meanwhile, accused the rebels of using the peace process to consolidate and beef up its ranks.
"Indeed, it is a futile effort to continue to talk peace with the group whose members … senselessly kill our soldiers that defend and protect our people," said military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo.
The president's decision to end the talks also got the support even of the opposition in Congress.
Senator Franklin Drilon, head of the minority bloc in the Senate, said he agreed with the president's decision.
Peace negotiations between the government and the rebels began in 1986 during the administration of former president Corazon Aquino. It was followed by nearly three decades of talks that ended in failure.
In August last year, formal negotiations between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front re-opened in Norway.