MANILA: The Philippines set fresh conditions Thursday for resuming peace talks with communist rebels, drawing a quick rejection from leaders of the nearly 50-year-old insurgency.
The rebels would have to drop collection of a so-called “revolutionary tax” from businesses and demands to be part of a governing coalition.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s peace adviser Jesus Dureza also said talks would need to move to the Philippines from Europe and rebels would have to live in special camps.
“The doors for peace negotiations with the communist rebels are still open,” Dureza said in a statement.
Duterte called off negotiations in November and formally designated the Communist Party of the Philippines and its 3,800-member armed wing the New People’s Army as “terrorist organisations”.
The 49-year-old conflict in the largely Catholic nation is one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies and has claimed 30,000 lives by the government’s count.
“Duterte has killed the peace talks,” rebel leader Jose Maria Sison told journalists via video link from his base in the Netherlands, calling government officials, “double-faced hypocrites” for claiming the negotiations could continue.
Sison, a former college professor of Duterte, said the communists had originally hoped the peace talks would progress under the president who took office in mid-2016, calling himself a socialist.
The rebel leader rejected the Duterte government’s new pre-conditions, saying that the communists would be taking a major risk if they turned up to talks in the Philippines.
Previously talks were to be held in Norway, but Duterte has put them off.
Sison also said the military was overstretched, fighting Muslim extremists in the south and communist rebels in rural areas all over the country, adding that his guerrillas faced “big opportunities to hit” under Duterte.
“There will be more guerrilla offensives… while Duterte is in power,” he said.
Sison also sneered at the military’s estimate that the communists numbered less than 4,000, saying they had forces all over the country although he would not give specifics.
Calling the president a “monster”, Sison said that regarding peace talks, the communists “can wait for the next government, the next administration”.
Asked how long the conflict would last, he said “the revolutionary forces will fight for as long as necessary to overthrow this rotten system”.—AFP