The Philippine government has called an “all-out war” against the communist rebels New People’s Army, the country’s defense minister said Tuesday. Delfin Lorenzana said that the government has deployed troops to hunt down NPA rebels in the country.

"Yes, it is an all-out war because they are already considered by the president [Rodrigo Duterte] as terrorist[s]," Lorenzana said about NPA.

On Sunday, Duterte said he classified the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its divisions — NPA and the National Democratic Front (NDF) — as a terrorist group. His government also scrapped a ceasefire with the NPA saying the "terrorist group" made "huge" and unacceptable demands even though the government has provided concessions.

Lorenzana noted that the Philippine military will only target the NPA, the armed unit of the CPP that's responsible for communist insurgency in the country. He also likened NPA to the Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. However, according to the defense minister, "peace-loving supporters" of the rebel group will not be harmed.

Despite all this, Lorenzana also said that peace talks between the government and the rebels to end nearly five decades of conflict are still possible.

"The president has not actually closed the door to any negotiation," Lorenzana said. "The government is still open to peace talks if it will benefit the Filipino people."

The country’s armed forces alleged that NPA killed three soldiers in the southern Philippines last month. The fourth round of peace talks between the two parties is scheduled to resume in Oslo, Norway, early April.

The conflict between the government and the NPA began in 1969 and over 40,000 people have been killed.

After Duterte's presidential win last year, people in the Philippines are hoping him to bring an end to a communist insurgency that has halted the country's development for years, especially in central parts of the nation.