MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday he has ended the government's six-month ceasefire with communist rebels and ordered troops to prepare for new fighting after the guerrillas lifted their own truce and killed troops in fresh attacks.
Duterte disclosed his decision in a speech two days after the Marxist guerrillas abandoned their own ceasefire, citing the government's refusal to release what they consider political detainees and accusing the military of encroaching into their rural strongholds.
Duterte said he freed rebel leaders last year in concessions aimed at fostering peace talks but added the guerrillas raised excessive demands, including the release of about 400 detainees, that may upset the military and the police.
"This will just be wiping out each other now, I can't do anything," Duterte said in a speech in southern North Cotabato province. "I tried but it seems I am at the losing end of the bargain."
The military said it would follow Duterte's decision to lift the ceasefire, which allowed the government to withdraw troops from battlefields with communist New People's Army guerrillas to focus on a monthslong offensive against the Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim extremist groups in the south.
"We are saddened by the series of violent activities and the loss of the peace investments & dividends from the momentary duration of peace we had since August," military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.
The prospect of new fighting with the Maoist rebels comes as troops are waging an offensive against Muslim extremist groups in three battlefronts in the country's south.
Duterte has also announced he would enlist the already overburdened military in his anti-drug crackdown after prohibiting the national police and the National Bureau of Investigation — the Philippine counterpart of America's FBI — from enforcing his controversial campaign due to corruption and abuses.
The Communist Party of the Philippines and its rebel wing announced Wednesday it would halt its ceasefire Feb. 10 after accusing the government of reneging on earlier pledges to free more left-wing detainees and raising concerns over Duterte's brutal anti-drug crackdown and his allowing the burial of long-dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a heroes' cemetery.
The rebels and the government had separately declared a cease-fire last year as they resumed their peace talks brokered by Norway.
Founded in 1968, the rural-based guerrillas have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate an end to their rebellion with six Philippine presidents, including Duterte. Their rural-based rebellion is one of Asia's longest.