Philippine leader declares ceasefire with communist rebels
Published 25/07/2016 | 10:31
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has declared a unilateral ceasefire with communist guerrillas effectively immediately and asked the Maoist rebels to do the same.
Mr Duterte wants to end decades of deadly violence and foster the resumption of peace talks.
He said in his first state of the nation address on Monday before Congress that he wanted "permanent and lasting peace" before the end of his six-year term, which started on June 30.
Addressing the guerrillas, Mr Duterte said: "Let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere and it is getting bloodier by the day."
Government negotiators have met with rebel counterparts and agreed to restart peace talks in the next few months. A rebel leader in self-exile in Europe, Jose Maria Sison, plans to fly home soon to meet Mr Duterte.
The Philippine military welcomed MR Duterte's announcement but said it "will remain alert, vigilant and ready to defend itself and pursue attackers if confronted by armed elements of the New People's Army."
"The commander-in-chief has initiated a very bold move and we fully support him in his effort to bring sustainable and lasting peace," said military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.
The decades-long communist insurgency, one of Asia's longest, has left nearly 150,000 combatants and civilians dead and stalled economic development, especially in rural areas where the Maoist insurgents have had a long presence.
Mr Duterte also said his administration was ready to pursue peace talks with Muslim guerrillas in the country's south, where he was a long-time mayor of Davao city.
He built a name there for his tough crimebusting style before rising to the presidency.
"Let me say this, all of us want peace," said Mr Duterte.
"Not the peace of the dead, but the peace of the living."