Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday said that the government would no longer negotiate with armed groups until they give up their arms, on-line news network INQUIRER.NET reported.
While saying that her administration remains committed to pursue peace, Arroyo said the "focus of talks" would now shift " from armed groups to communities."
Speaking at the 2nd Philippine International Motor Show sponsored by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. in the World Trade Center in Pasay City, Arroyo called for a "national rejection of armed struggle."
Arroyo stressed that the government was "not at war with the Muslim community."
On Wednesday, the government called for further review of an accord it intended to sign with the Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) following criticisms by several sectors and views by justices that there were provisions in the accord that were unconstitutional.
This developed as radical MILF soldiers launched a serious of violent attacks in several towns and villages in the southern region of Mindanao, prompting the government to declare " unrelenting pursuit" of two key rebel leaders.
The 12,000-strong rebels have been fighting for self-rule since 1978, and signed a cease-fire with the government in 2003. The peace talks between the government and the rebel group have been on and off over the past years.
After a series of talks, breakthroughs were achieved at the end of July and the two sides were scheduled for Aug. 5 to sign an instrumental agreement on territory of the projected Muslim- dominated state.
However, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a temporary restraint order to stop the pact signing and it triggered violent reactions from MILF hawks.
(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2008)