MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday dashed hopes that peace between the government and the country’s communist rebels could be achieved within his term.
In a speech during the change of command ceremony of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio, Duterte said his successor may be the one to hold talks with communist rebels as he is no longer inclined to engage the group.
“We are fighting the NPA (New People’s Army). At this stage, I’m not ready to talk to them because it is not good for the country,” Duterte said.
“Kung para lang sa bayan, okay lang. But the way it is now, ayaw ko, and maybe it would take some time, maybe another President [could] do it.”
Left-leaning groups had welcomed the electoral victory of Duterte, a self-proclaimed socialist, in hopes of pursuing talks with the government and instituting social reforms anchored on their ideologies.
Peace negotiations between the government and rebel sides, however, broke down earlier this year following a string of attacks against state troops allegedly committed by the NPA.
Despite the President's pronouncements that he would no longer pursue negotiations with the Left, there has yet to be a formal termination of the talks, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza earlier said.
The President has been at loggerheads with left-leaning groups since the collapse of talks.
Duterte had warned that he might declare nationwide martial law if the communist threat would grow. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana later clarified that it was "very remote" as communist forces in the country have significantly weakened.
The collapse of the peace talks and the Commission on Appointments' rejection of left-leaning Cabinet appointees Judy Taguiwalo and Rafael Mariano prompted the leftist Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives to bolt the chamber’s super majority last month.
Early in his term, Duterte had vowed to achieve peace with the communist movement, which has been waging Asia's longest-running insurgency.