Manila axes communist talks 

The Philippines has formally called off peace talks with communist insurgents, after the parties failed to end a dispute over a rebel order to step up attacks.

“We are maintaining the decision made not to participate in the fifth round of talks,” Manila’s chief negotiator Jesus Dureza told the media.

“The government panel is now left without any other recourse but to announce… that it will not proceed to participate in the fifth round of peace negotiations,” he said.

He added that talks would not resume until there were indications of an “environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace”.

“There are no compelling reasons for us to change the decision,” he said. Peace talks restarted in August.

The talks were meant to address social and economic reforms and human rights issues.

Meanwhile, the death toll with Islamist insurgents on the large southern island of Mindanao has exceeded 100.

Talks with the communists faltered on Saturday when Dureza objected to the communist orders to intensify attacks in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law on Mindanao.

Dureza said the rebel decision to resume attacks was a factor, adding that the move was not a formal withdrawal from the peace process.

Communists leaders, who are active in various areas of the Philippines, including the largely Muslim south, ordering their insurgents to “carry out more tactical offensives”.

Communist negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said he had “recommended to our leadership to reconsider the order, but that takes time”.

He said the NDFP, an alliance of several groups including the Communist Party of the Philippines, “deeply regretted” the move to scrap the talks.

The communist rebellion began in 1968 and is one of the longest running in the world, claiming around 30,000 lives, according to the Philippine military.

Peace talks have been conducted periodically for 30 years, seeing a revival when Duterte, 72, a self-declared socialist who was a left-wing student during the Vietnam War, was elected president last year.

But Duterte imposed tough conditions, including that the insurgents stop extortion and arson activities.

Duterte axed peace talks in February after the collapse of unilateral ceasefires that saw communist rebels kill several soldiers and police in a string of attacks.

About 4,000 New People’s Army guerrillas continue to attack isolated government positions and extort money from businesses to finance their rebellion, the military (pictured) claimed.

Picture credit: Wikimedia