PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he was holding back from ordering air strikes to neutralize the communist rebels because he did not want to put the lives of civilians at risk.
He said he decided against using bombs even if drone technology from Israel and the United States has made it easier for government troops to locate rebel camps.
“Nakikita kayo sa drone, helicopter. Gusto nila na titirahin kayo diyan sa taas. Ako lang ang tiga-pigil. Sabi ko, huwag na. Pasalubungin mo na lang ng sundalo, baka makumbinsi mo pa mag-surrender,” Duterte said in a speech in Dimasalang, Masbate, one of the provinces in the Bicol Region where the rebels have a considerable presence.
“The waging of war, kinokontrol ko ‘yan. Lalo na paggamit ng bomba. Kasi alam mo pagka bomba, bomba. Kung i-landing diyan ‘yang isa, ubos tayo dito lahat,” he added.
“Eh paano ‘yung mga civilian? Kasi kung wala lang civilian, medyo matagal na sigurong malinis ito. Hulugan ko na lang ng bomba.”
Duterte then reiterated his call for the rebels to surrender, as he promised to provide them with housing and livelihood assistance from various government agencies.
The President earlier said he was leaving a “small window” of opportunity for peace talks to resume as his government aims to find a political solution to the 50-year-old communist insurgency in the country —said to be the longest-running rebellion in Asia.