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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while addressing families of the 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) members who were killed in a 2015 police operation, during a dialouge at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Czar Dancel(reuters_tickers)
By Neil Jerome Morales
MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine government will on Friday withdraw from a ceasefire with communist rebels, President Rodrigo Duterte said, as he ordered soldiers to get ready to fight and declared there would be no peace with the insurgents for a generation.
Duterte had made a nationwide peace process one of the priorities of his administration but showed frustration over demands made by the New People's Army (NPA), and the deaths of seven soldiers since the group pulled out of the ceasefire two days ago. Three soldiers have been captured.
"I have lost many soldiers in just 48 hours, I think to continue with the ceasefire does not or will not produce anything," Duterte said in a speech.
"I am asking the soldiers: Go back to your camps, clean your rifles and be ready to fight."
Duterte's declaration follows his defence minister's assurance on Wednesday that the government would stick to a unilateral truce.
The communists accused the military of occupying 500 barrios, or town districts, that are supposedly within their control.
The rebels said government troops engaged in "hostile actions", but they still supported the peace process.
The military responded by saying the NPA had broken the ceasefire numerous times. It was due to expire on Feb. 10.
"I'm really very sorry. I tried my best but like in the song, my best was not good enough," Duterte said.
"There will be no peace in this land vis-a-vis the Communist Party. Let's resume the war."
He said the rebels' demands were "too huge" and it was impossible to work out a compromise. He felt he had shown his commitment to the process by freeing top communist leaders.
"I am sad to report to you that there will be no peace with the communists for the next generation", he said.
(Reporting by Martin Petty and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Robert Birsel)