Philip­pines’ Duterte threat­ens to end peace talks af­ter at­tack

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Philippine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte threat­ened to end peace talks with com­mu­nist rebels yes­ter­day, hours af­ter sus­pected guer­ril­las wounded four of his mil­i­tary body­guards in an am­bush. Aides said Duterte, 72, was not in the con­voy when gun­men opened fire on two Pres­i­den­tial Se­cu­rity Group ve­hi­cles along a high­way on the main south­ern is­land of Min­danao, where mar­tial law is in ef­fect. The gov­ern­ment blamed the New Peo­ple’s Army-the 4,000-mem­ber armed wing of the Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pine­sand threat­ened to shelve peace ne­go­ti­a­tions un­less the guer­ril­las stopped tar­get­ing sol­diers in the south.

“The pres­i­dent di­rected the gov­ern­ment panel... not to re­sume for­mal peace talks un­less the reds (left­ist rebels) agree to stop their at­tacks against gov­ern­ment troops in Min­danao,” said a state­ment is­sued by the pres­i­den­tial palace. The lat­est com­mu­nist at­tack came as gov­ern­ment forces on Min­danao fought Is­lamic State groupin­spired mil­i­tants who have been holed up in the south­ern city of Marawi since May 23. The com­mu­nist party, which is wag­ing Asia’s long­est-run­ning in­sur­gency, called on its armed wing on Tues­day to launch of­fen­sives in re­sponse to Duterte’s plan to put Min­danao un­der mar­tial law un­til the end of the year. A 60-day mar­tial rule is now in force on Min­danao as part of the mil­i­tary cam­paign in Marawi, but the Duterte gov­ern­ment said Tues­day it needed more time to ac­com­plish the mis­sion. The com­mu­nist in­sur­gency that be­gan in 1968 and which the mil­i­tary says is now mostly waged in Min­danao has claimed an es­ti­mated 30,000 lives. The rebels have been in off-and-on peace talks with the gov­ern­ment since Duterte, a self-de­scribed so­cial­ist, was elected last year.

Both sides de­clared uni­lat­eral cease­fires, but these did not last. Duterte sus­pended for­mal peace talks in May af­ter both sides failed to re­solve a dis­pute over a rebel or­der for fight­ers to step up at­tacks.

To try and end the two-month im­passe, Duterte was plan­ning to send ne­go­tia­tors shortly to an un­spec­i­fied venue and in­for­mally dis­cuss a pos­si­ble bi­lat­eral cease­fire agree­ment, the gov­ern­ment state­ment said. But it warned that for for­mal peace talks to re­sume, the rebels must com­mit to “sus­pend­ing op­er­a­tions against the mil­i­tary and the po­lice and stop­ping all their ex­tor­tion ac­tiv­i­ties on the ground”. A se­nior Min­danao mil­i­tary of­fi­cial, Bri­gadierGen­eral Gil­berto Ga­pay, said the com­mu­nists were be­hind the at­tack on the Duterte body­guards. “This is part of their na­tion­wide call for armed groups to op­pose mar­tial law by launch­ing in­ten­si­fied of­fen­sives against gov­ern­ment forces,” Ga­pay told ra­dio sta­tion DZBB in Manila. — AFP

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