Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has offered a bounty of $500 (£340) for killing communist rebels because it is a cheaper option than launching a full-fledged war against them. This will help the government save nearly 50% of the costs of anti-insurgency operations.

The firebrand leader's human rights record has already been under severe criticism, both inside and outside the Philippines, over its handling of the notorious crackdown of illegal narcotics and drug offenders. The latest crackdown will only add fuel to the fire of alleged human rights abuse.

"You kill an NPA today and I'll pay you 25,000 pesos [$500]," said Duterte referring to the New People's Army guerrillas. "I was computing that if this drags on for four years... it'll be very expensive because it's war. If I'll just pay 25,000 for a life, I can save about 47%."

This has also raised fears that an escalation of violence between government troops and communist insurgents will force thousands of residents to flee their natives. Duterte also added that he would train indigenous people to fight against the communist insurgents.

While referring to a locally formed group known as Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit, he said: "Give me about three months, I'll train them as Cafgu members.

"If you work really hard to crawl across the forest, you'll surely be able to shoot even just one. If you can shoot a bird above you, then how much more an NPA whose head is so big?" Duterte went on, evoking a dry laughter from the audience.

His remarks have come just days after he asked the Filipino troops to shoot female communist rebels in their vaginas.

Rights groups have swiftly condemned Duterte's latest outburst saying such actions of announcing bounty will only lead to more extrajudicial killings in the country, which has already seen scores of alleged drug pushers and users being killed by vigilantes since the president launched his bloody drug war.

"Duterte's pronouncements normalise the idea that government security forces can do as they wish to defeat their enemies, including committing summary executions and sexual violence," said Carlos Conde of the Human Rights Watch.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte - File photo Romeo Ranoco/Reuters