Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is moving to restart peace talks with communist rebels and end a decades-old insurgency that has killed tens of thousands.
On Monday, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire after calling on the rebels to reciprocate government efforts during his first State of the Nation Address, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Duterte also urged government authorities to relentlessly pursue a war against illegal drugs, criminals and the Abu Sayyaf terror gang, which has pledged loyalty to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
The group recently carried out a spate of kidnappings and killed two Canadian hostages in the southwest of the country.
In a nationally broadcast address to the joint session of Congress, Duterte said he would pursue a diplomatic solution to the Philippines’ dispute with China over territory in the South China Sea after an international tribunal recently ruled in favor of Manila — a decision that angered Beijing.
Duterte, who earned a hard-nosed reputation in cleaning up crime as mayor of the southern city of Davao, has been making plans to further a peace process with Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines.
He said Monday that he hopes to forge a lasting settlement with the communists.
“All of us want peace,” Duterte said.
“Not the peace of the dead but the peace of the living… I am now announcing a unilateral cease-fire… and call on them to respond accordingly.”
Duterte had already sent emissaries to Europe before taking office to meet with exiled communist leaders.
Peace talks are expected to start in coming weeks.
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