Duterte declares ceasefire with communist rebels

MANILA (Updated) -- President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with communist guerrillas effective immediately Monday, July 25, and asked the rebels to do the same to end decades of deadly violence and foster the resumption of peace talks.

In his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) Congress, Duterte said he wanted a "permanent and lasting peace" before the end of his six-year term, which commenced on June 30.

Addressing the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army and National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), Duterte said: "Let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere and it is getting bloodier by the day."

"All of us want peace, not the peace of the dead but the peace of the living," he said, stressing that the government is ready and willing to go to the negotiation table.

Duterte recently approved a comprehensive peace road map, which will address the Bangsamoro issue and the impending resumption of peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

"If we cannot yet live one another, then in God's name, let us not hate each other too much," Duterte said Monday.

He said lasting peace for the Filipinos has been his goal and dream as President of the Philippines.

The Philippine military welcomed Duterte's announcement but said it "will remain alert, vigilant and ready to defend itself and pursue attackers if confronted by armed elements of the New People's Army."

"The commander-in-chief has initiated a very bold move and we fully support him in his effort to bring sustainable and lasting peace," military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said.

The decades-long communist insurgency, one of Asia's longest, has left nearly 150,000 combatants and civilians dead and stalled economic development, especially in rural areas where the Maoist insurgents have had a long presence.

Government negotiators have met with rebel counterparts and agreed to restart peace talks in the next few months. A rebel leader in self-exile in Europe, Jose Maria Sison, plans to fly home soon to meet Duterte, his former student in a Manila university.

In an interview with Rappler shortly after Duterte's Sona, Sison said that "within the hour, the NDFP will issue a positive response."

"I welcome President Duterte's announcement of unilateral ceasefire of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) in relation to the NPA...We share with President Duterte the determination to resume the formal talks and work for a just and lasting peace," he said. (Sunnex/With AP)

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