(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday (September 9) he would not hesitate to expand his declaration of martial law nationwide should communist rebels in conflict with the government bring "fighting to the streets."
An angry Duterte in May ordered the scrapping of formal peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) after the military said fighters from the CPP's military wing, the New People's Army, stepped up offensives in the countryside.Martial law is already imposed over Mindanao, an island of 22 million people, until the end of the year, to allow the military to break up an alliance of pro-Islamic State (IS) militant groups that has occupied the southern city of Marawi.
Pockets of fighters from the Maute group remain in the ruins of the heart of the city which has been devastated by artillery and bombings. The military estimates about 20 to 30 hostages are still being held, some of whom it says were forced to take up arms against government troops.
When asked about a deal with the militants to rescue the hostages, Duterte said "no way" and insisted the fighters should surrender.
The three-month long conflict has killed more than 800 people, mostly militants, and the military has launched a final push to retake Marawi by the end of September.