Rebels of the Maoist-led New People’s Army (NPA) attacked a convoy of security men for Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte on Mindanao killing one guard and wounding six others. Duterte was not in the area when the clash took place early on Wednesday.
But the attack caused peace talks between the government and the Communist guerrillas to be shelved. The Philippines is also heavily involved with Islamist State fighters in the city of Marawi trying to oust them.
But the incident was basis enough for peace adviser Jesus Dureza to call off informal, “back channel” talks with exiled leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines aimed at restarting a stalled peace process.
“The situation on the ground necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations are still not present,” Dureza said in a statement.
The peace process, an important initiative of Duterte, has been fraught with breakdowns, with both sides abandoning unilateral ceasefires in February, blaming each other for launching attacks while talks were going on.
Duterte on Tuesday met his negotiators dealing with the communists and told them not to agree to a bilateral ceasefire until the NPA ceased attacks on troops. He also called the political leadership to keep its fighters under control.
The clash at a checkpoint came a day after Duterte asked Congress to extend martial law until the end of the year to tackle rising Islamist militancy.
Communist and Muslim rebels both operate on Mindanao, stretching the military on multiple fronts on the island of 22 million people.
Government forces are battling to defeat Islamic State-inspired rebels who have occupied the heart of the island’s Marawi City for 58 days, while operations continue on islands to the west of Mindanao against Abu Sayyaf rebels behind kidnappings and piracy.
The wounded soldiers were on their way to another Mindanao city when they came upon a checkpoint manned by NPA communist guerrillas who opened fire on them. The NPA has been fighting the longest insurgency in Asia against the Filipino government. The fighting began in 1968 and has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.
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