Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (pictured) says he will shut down any mine helping Maoist rebels waging a prolonged insurgency.
Duterte’s administration has held stuttering peace talks with the political wing of the rebel movement, the National Democratic Front (NDF), but his latest move effectively ends the peace process.
The insurgents said the security forces continued attacks inside their territory while negotiations were ongoing.
Talks first began in 1986 and the armed conflict has resulted in more than 40,000 deaths and prevented development in resource-rich rural areas.
It is one of the longest running insurgencies in the world.
In a speech honouring troops who battled Islamist militants during the five-month siege of the Mindanao city of Marawi, the tough-talking president said Maoist strikes had increased, forcing him to end talks.
Duterte also made the unsettling reassurance that he would not declare martial law or a revolutionary government, saying that he would only arrest the Maoists.
“If I go against the communists, then everybody has to reconfigure their relationship with the New People’s Army [NPA],” Duterte said, referring to the group’s military wing.
“If you support them financially, I will close you down in the interest of the security of the state,” he told the event.
The 72-year-old said he would label the NDF and NPA terrorist organisations. The US and European Union have labelled them terror groups for several years.
“I will follow America, since they say that I am an American boy. OK, granted, I will admit that I am a fascist. I will categorise you already as a terrorist,” Duterte told the event.
Duterte said mine owners were paying “revolutionary taxes” to the Maoists as protection money to allow them to operate in remote areas. He did give any examples.
He called the revolutionary taxes extortion money.
The Philippines has gold, nickel, copper, chromite and coal mines. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau reported in 2012 that the archipelago had an estimated US$840 billion worth of untapped mineral wealth.
“Duterte Harry” said mining firms regularly deposited money in bank accounts maintained by the insurgents to protect operations from attack.
Ronald Recidoro, executive director at the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, told Reuters that the sector backed Duterte.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Picture credit: Wikimedia