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Duterte cancels peace talks with Maoists

MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer) — The government has canceled all planned meetings with the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the termination of peace talks with the communist insurgents, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said on Wednesday.

Dureza said the national government was terminating the talks after the failure of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in reciprocating peace overtures from the president. But he said he was still hopeful that this would turn out to be a temporary setback.

“We are hereby announcing today the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” he said in a statement.

The NDFP is the political arm of the CPP.

“Recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels left the president with no other choice but to arrive at this decision. We take guidance from the president’s recent announcements and declarations,” Dureza said.

On Tuesday, Duterte said his administration was preparing the official proclamation terminating the peace talks and categorizing the NPA as a terrorist organization.

“I no longer want to talk, especially after their last ambush of a police officer where a 4-month-old girl who was in the arms of the mother [was killed],” he said.

The baby was killed when NPA members ambushed a police vehicle in Tikalaan village, Talakag in the southern province of Bukidnon on Nov. 11. The baby and her mother were in a Toyota Fortuner that was behind the police vehicle.

The CPP has been waging an insurgency since 1968. Peace talks to end the conflict, which the military says has claimed 30,000 lives, have been conducted on-and-off for three decades.

They were revived last year after Duterte, a self-declared socialist, was elected president, with Norway and the Netherlands hosting the negotiations.

Dureza said the termination of peace talks with the communist rebels was an unfortunate development.

“Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them,” he said.

He said Duterte had taken unprecedented steps and had walked the extra mile to bring peace. “However, the CPP and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity,” he said.

Dureza said there would be “no peace negotiations anymore” with the insurgents “until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident.”

He said the government would continue to “closely watch the developments” to determine if the talks could resume later on.