Saturday, January 14, 2006

Philippine Army Rejects Talks With Communists

The Philippine Army chief ruled out peace talks with communist rebels, signalling the government was focused on eliminating a long-term security threat and using troops to weed out the roots of insurgency.
Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon
Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon, Commander of the 70,000-member ground forces, said the military was ready to do battle with New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas and was also focusing on development work in poor rural villages to check the expansion of rebel influence. “We’ll fight them and the plans are laid out,” Esperon, wearing camouflage fatigues, said in an interview at an army fortress near Manila’s business district. “The president has decided that we do not go on peace talks with them. They take advantage of the democratic space. They take advantage of the security and immunity guarantees. They roam and propagandise, arouse, organise and mobilise.” The insurgency, which has killed an estimated 40,000 people, is active in 69 of 79 provinces and has stunted rural development by terrorising villages and businesses with violence and “revolutionary war taxes.” “The talks will not give us anything,” said Esperon.