Philippines: Duterte makes turnaround on insurgent group’s terrorist reference

Communists will have to wait for the next president for peace talks

Gulf News

Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte has cancelled his plan to recommend the removal of Philippine communists from the international list of terrorist groups.

In a recent meeting with the press in Cagayan de Oro in southern Philippines, Duterte said he was cancelling his earlier idea to request other countries, such as the United States, to withdraw their “terrorist” designation on the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

The terrorist tag, which was enforced in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, had effectively cut off foreign funding from international groups on the CPP-NPA-NDF.

This forced the insurgent group to demand more “revolutionary taxes” from businesses which in turn, diminished support from former sympathisers.

On Thursday, Duterte announced that he was calling off peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF following a series of attacks in various areas of the country. The insurgent operations were carried out despite a unilateral truce observed by both sides since August.

Four government soldiers were killed in the latest round of hostilities. Duterte likewise said he had been appalled by the manner the soldiers were killed noting that one of them sustained 73 gunshot wounds.

“Why do you do that? What do they take our soldiers for? Like dogs? They should show respect for their quarry, in the field of battle, there is always honour,” he said

Nevertheless, Duterte said the government will not consider declaring intensified offensive operations against communist rebels.

“No [all out war]. Law enforcement [operations] only,” he said after he visited the wake of soldiers killed in action in Cagayan de Oro City.

On the other hand, he said he is willing to accept other communist rebels who will surrender to the government.

“To all of you soldiers in the mountains, I am offering you peace. If you go down, I will find money to place you in settlements and I will proceed with the land reform,“ he said.

Hours after the President made the offer on Saturday, an NPA supporter surrendered an improvised explosive device (IED) to authorities in Davao Oriental. On the same day, rebels attacked a banana packing plant owned by Dole in Pantukan, Compostella Valley according to a report by the Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division.

Maj. Gen Rafael Valencia, 10 Infantry Division commander said that operations are under way to target armed terror groups including the NPA. “We are guided by President Duterte’s pronouncements in dealing with the NPAs, who continue to attack civilian targets.”

When he assumed authority as the country’s 16th President in June 30, 2016, one of the first orders given by Duterte was to restart peace negotiations with the communists. But with the recent developments, the President said he had given up hope that a peaceful, negotiated colony would be afforded under his term.

“They can expect to talk peace probably with the next President,” Duterte said.

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