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Philippine communists call off truce

MANILA: Communist insurgents in the Philippines called off a truce with the government yesterday, almost two weeks ahead of schedule, raising concerns about the future of peace talks.
The Communist Party of the Philippines blamed the government for their action but a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino said the CPP just wanted an excuse to cut the cease-fire short.
A CPP statement said the truce, originally scheduled to run from Dec. 20 to Jan. 15, had ended at noon yesterday because it believed the government only wanted a truce to remain in place until then.
“The (communist New People’s Army) and the people’s militias should immediately assume an offensive posture and confront and frustrate the enemy campaigns of suppression,” the statement said.
However Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government would observe the cease-fire until Jan. 15.
He said the rebels had found an extended cease-fire to be “detrimental” to them so they chose to cut it short and blame the government.
“The CPP-NPA has always been making excuses... and now they’re coming up with other stumbling blocks to peace,” Lacierda told reporters.
The government and the CPP agreed to the cease-fire in mid-December when they held their first high-level peace talks for 13 months.
Southern Philippine military spokesman Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza said Wednesday the CPP had already violated the cease-fire.
He said communist gunmen descended on the outskirts of the southern city of Davao on Monday and Tuesday, briefly holding two government militiamen and three civilians to intimidate them.
The CPP pulled out of peace talks in November 2011 after the government rejected rebel demands to free jailed comrades whom they claimed were consultants to the negotiations.
The Maoist rebels have been waging an armed rebellion to seize power since 1969 and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government.
The military estimates the current NPA strength at about 4,000 fighters, significantly down from more than 26,000 at its peak in the late 1980s.