Philippines freezes peace talks with communist rebels

Philippine government halts talks with communist rebels after series of attacks as president vows new offensive.

Philippine Communist Rebels Hideout In The Hinterlands
President Duterte has vowed to quell a decades-long communist uprising [File: Jes Aznar/Getty Images]

The Philippine government has frozen efforts to resume stalled peace talks with communist rebels following a series of attacks, officials said.

Government negotiators were supposed to hold back-channel talks with their communist rebel counterparts in the Netherlands at the weekend, but the meeting was scrapped after attacks earlier this week.

Three government troops were killed, and six soldiers who were part of the president’s security group were wounded in the separate attacks, DPA news agency said.

“Everything is on hold until favourable conditions will be agreed upon by both parties,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters on Friday.

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On Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte told soldiers in a visit to a military camp in besieged Marawi City, 800 kilometres south of Manila, that the communist rebels would be their next target after fighting armed groups linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). 

“After we finish off those fools there, we will re-orient our offensive against the New People’s Army,” he said, referring to the armed wing of the rebel group the Communist Party of the Philippines.

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“I don’t want to talk with them anymore,” he added. “They have killed many of our soldiers, many of our police officers. Imagine, killing two soldiers while they were going to the market. That really angers me.”

Duterte was referring to two unarmed soldiers who were shot dead while buying supplies at a public market in the town of Roxas in Palawan province, 510 kilometres south-west of Manila, on Wednesday.

The killing was suspected to have been in retaliation for the seizure of a communist rebel training camp a few weeks ago, the military said.

President Rodrigo Duterte holds a 45 calibre pistol while standing with Eduardo Ano, a Chief of the Armed Forces [File: Dondi Tawatao/AFP]
President Rodrigo Duterte holds a 45 calibre pistol while standing with Eduardo Ano, a Chief of the Armed Forces [File: Dondi Tawatao/AFP]

The Philippines has been beset by separate communist and Muslim-led insurgencies in various parts of the country for decades.

Communist fighters and rebels from Muslim armed groups both challenge government forces in parts of the country. 

Also on Wednesday, Maoist fighters attacked a checkpoint on the Mindanao Island, killing a paramilitary guard officer and injuring five soldiers from the presidential guard.

READ MORE: Residents mourn battle-ridden Philippine city of Marawi

The clash at the checkpoint came a day after Duterte asked congress to extend martial law until the end of the year to tackle unrest by Islamist armed groups. 

The violence highlights the challenge facing a military stretched on multiple fronts in Mindanao, an island of 22 million people.

Documents allegedly obtained by the army showed Maoist rebel leaders had ordered fighters to step up attacks after martial law was imposed in Mindanao on May 23, Ano said.

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Source: News Agencies