Philippine troops clashed with communist rebels, leaving 10 guerrillas and two soldiers dead, military officials announced today (Friday, March 31).
The deaths come just days before peace talks are due to resume, and in a week that has seen “lightning” rallies of Communist supporters across the Philippines.
Major General Rhoderick Parayno said the military did not recover the rebels’ bodies but witnesses counted 10 killed among 30 guerrillas encountered by troops in General Nakar, a town about 30 miles to the east of Manila. Two soldiers ere also killed and two more were wounded.
As we reported this week, about 100 supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) marched near the presidential palace in a show of force before the peace talks.
Similar gatherings have taken place across the country as the New People’s Army (NPA) — the armed wing of the CPP — marked its 48th anniversary.
The rebels and government negotiators are set to resume Norway-brokered peace negotiations in the Netherlands following an escalation last month of deadly clashes and the calling off of separately declared cease-fires.
“Right now, there is no reason to declare a unilateral ceasefire because our president is more interested in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello said.
A country referee will need to be chosen, with Switzerland, Canada and Australia among those willing to do so, Mr Bello added. Also to be discussed are sensitive issues such as the rebels’ collection of “revolutionary taxe”, he added.
Yesterday, we reported how a group of rebels had torched a school after being denied “tax” from a school meal fund. This has since been denied by the NPA and disputed by local firefighters and teaching staff. However, the military and other sources close to the scene stand by the claim. (Read more here)
Founded in 1968, the NPA has unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with five presidents before the current incumbent.
Battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting have weakened the rebel group, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and remains a major security threat to the Philippines.