PRESIDENT Duterte on Monday night signaled the end of negotiations with the Left after announcing to soldiers in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, to prepare for the next war the government will wage—the war against the New People’s Army (NPA).
In his sixth visit in war-torn Marawi City, the President told government troops to remain vigilant even as the fighting against Islamist extremists is reported to end within October. Duterte said soldiers will face the NPA next, which have conducted successful—and successive—offensives in different parts of the Philippines, mostly in Southern Mindanao.
“I was assessing the terrain of the peace talks, and it appears our negotiations with the NPA are bound to fail. Keep your guards up because, from my briefer, there are about 15 to 20 encounters with the NPA every day,” the President said.
“Our next target are the NPAs, because they have killed many of our soldiers,” Duterte added.
The past days saw consecutive NPA attacks in Sarangani, South Cotabato, Surigao del Sur, Palawan and Masbate, dealing the military heavy blows in its counterinsurgency program.
The NPA claimed responsibility for disarming officials involved in military operations in Sarangani and South Cotabato. The communist rebels were also reported to have taken as prisoners of war a tribe leader and a militiaman in Surigao del Sur.
The NPA also ambushed a military convoy in Palawan and killed a policeman in Masbate. The string of attacks, in the words of Presidential Spokesman Ernesto C. Abella, only “fuels the public’s doubts about the talks with the group”.
Abella on Monday said the public need not worry, as government troops are doing everything in their power to neutralize the communist rebels.
“The government will undertake appropriate steps to deal decisively with these forces that seem to have lost their sense of nation building,” Abella added.
But the President said he had enough of “communist atrocities”. He advised government troops to be wary of their environment once they return home after the conflict in Marawi City.
“If you return to your provinces, you only go in buddies, not in groups. The NPA might ambush you right in front of your house,” Duterte said.
Negotiations with communists are suspended upon the orders of the Chief Executive, after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in May ordered its armed wing, the NPA, to heighten offensives and accelerate recruitment as a response to the martial-law declaration in Mindanao.
Backchannel efforts to revive the peace talks failed due to an NPA ambush in Arakan, Cotabato, which claimed the lives of one militiaman and five members of the Presidential Security Group.
The CPP stated it is still open to negotiating with the government, even as it no longer expects the peace talks to bring about substantive reforms that will benefit the majority of the people.
“While open to resuming peace talks with the Duterte regime, revolutionary forces are no longer hopeful that anything substantive will come out of it in the face of Duterte’s subservience to the interests of [United States] imperialism and other big foreign capitalist countries,” the CPP said in a statement on September 19.