Philippines: I am ready for 'marathon' talks with communists, says Duterte

I dare them. This is my challenge to them: let us not only talk, let's have a marathon, said Duterte.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, reiterating his desire for the country to achieve lasting peace before he steps down from office, said that his administration is still ready to hold "marathon" peace negotiations with communist rebels.

Yesterday in a speech, he said that he has hope that he can proceed with the talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines. "I dare them. This is my challenge to them: let us not only talk, let's have a marathon," said Duterte.

Duterte was heavily criticised by the communist rebels for calling off the truce. However Duterte expresses his concerns that he is being blamed for calling off the ceasefire even if the government side was the one that sustained casualties.

He also said that he is still open to a ceasefire. "I will see if I will also be happy to re-install a ceasefire. Maybe at Christmas time... in the spirit of the season," the President said.

While the communists blame Duterte for taking a hasty decision, he counter argued that even after fighting for 47 years, the communists never had control of one barangay for one day.

"Me, I was elected by about 16 million of our countrymen for whom I am really thankful. They could not even get to elect a leftist. They always lose," he said.

The President, in his speech, also said that peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the communists, would resume on August 20.

"I know negotiations will be difficult and so the best way really is to talk again and find out whether it is reachable or beyond our reach," he added.

Last July 25, Duterte declared a ceasefire with the communists during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). The truce was meant to support the resumption of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

However, the ceasefire was called off on Saturday night after the NDF failed to declare its own truce before 5 pm of July 30, the deadline Duterte set.

The communists were asked to implement a truce after guerrillas ambushed government militiamen in Davao del Norte last July 27. The attack happened just two days after Duterte's ceasefire was announced. The attack left one militiaman dead and four others wounded.