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President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday declared a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels as part of his bid to end insurgency in the Philippines, one of the longest running rebellions in Asia.
“I am announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately,” Duterte said in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed group the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front, its political arm.
Duterte added that he expects “our fellow Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly.”
He made the announcement ahead of his administration’s first formal talks with communist rebels on August 20.
“To our Muslim brothers, let us end these centuries of mistrust and warfare. To the CPP/NPA/NDF, let us end these decades of ambuscades,” he said
Duterte’s new government is laying the groundwork for peace talks with the communists that are due to begin in Norway next month.
The communist rebellion has killed about 30,000 people since the 1960s.
The communists’ armed wing, the NPA, is believed to have fewer than 4,000 gunmen today, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, according to the military.
But it retains support among the deeply poor in rural areas, and its troops regularly kill security forces while extorting money from local businesses.
Dutere’s predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, revived negotiations soon after taking office in 2010 but shelved them in 2013, accusing the rebels of being insincere about finding a political settlement.
The talks collapsed after his government rejected the rebels’ demand to release scores of their jailed comrades, whom they described as “political prisoners.”
Duterte, who took office on June 30 and counts exiled communist rebel leader Jose Maria Sison as a friend, had previously offered to release some political prisoners.
His aides have already held preliminary talks with Sison and other senior communist leaders, during which they agreed to resume the peace negotiations next month. With AFP