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Philippines communist rebels end ceasefire but still support peace talks

MANILA (Reuters) - The Maoist-led rebel group in the Philippines said on Wednesday it was terminating a unilateral ceasefire it declared five months ago and resuming a protracted guerrilla warfare that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The New People's Army said in a statement that the ceasefire agreed to last August would expire on Feb. 10, but added the rebels would still support peace talks with the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"In our experience and in the experience of other peoples, it is possible to negotiatewhile fighting until the substantive agreements are forged to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace," the group said.

It said the decision was made because the government failed to comply with its "obligation" to pardon and release all political prisoners and "has treacherously taken advantage" of the ceasefire to encroach on its territory.

Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said he was "dismayed" with the move, which came after peace negotiators agreed to further discuss a bilateral ceasefire.

But he said he would recommend to Duterte that the government's unilateral ceasefire be maintained to provide an "enabling and conducive environment" to peace talks.

"The road to peace is not easy to traverse. What is important is that we all stay the course," Dureza said.

Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement that the army will continue to enforce the government's unilateral truce and "will not actively operate against the New People's Army while our ceasefire is in effect".

He said soldiers will defend themselves if attacked and will pursue all lawless groups to maintain peace and order.

The communists accused the military of occupying 500 barrios, or town districts, that are supposedly within their control and that government forces were allegedly engaged in "hostile actions" and other "offensive operations".

Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the NPA was still involved in extortion, recruitment and attacks on plantations, mines and other businesses.

He cited nine incidents showing rebel violations of their own truce, including abducting a soldier in the south and killing two others in a northern province.

From September to November last year, the military reported zero armed encounters with communist guerrillas but it has observed an increase in rebel attacks in the last two months.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato and Enrico delaCruz; Editing by Michael Perry)

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