4 soldiers, 2 rebels killed ahead of peace talks with communists PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 07 August 2016 14:13

Philippines military on Saturday confirmed that four soldiers and two communist rebels were killed in separate clashes in southern Philippines ahead of the renewed peace negotiations to begin on August 20 in Oslo, Norway.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, Eastern Mindanao Command information officer, said  that a Scout Ranger platoon on a “field monitoring”  clashed with some 60 fully armed New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in a 45-minute gunbattle Friday morning in Monkayo town, Compostela Valley province leaving 13 soldiers wounded, three of whom were dead on arrival at a hospital.

NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been waging waging one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies in the country, which — according to the military — has claimed more than 3,000 lives over the past eight years.

Balagtey said the names of the slain soldiers have been withheld pending notification to their families.

Also from the soldiers’ side, he said, one was missing in action.

Balagtey quoted a field army report as saying a female NPA guerrilla was killed and three were arrested,  one of whom with gunshot wounds.

The spokesperson said the first of a series of clashes occurred Thursday afternoon when troops of the Charlie Company engaged in a 15-minute firefight with rebels in the village of Rizal. No casualty was reported.

But in a pursuit operation Friday morning, rebels attacked the soldiers with high-powered firearms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Balagtey said the rebels fled with the slain soldiers’ three rifles and personal belongings.

In a separate clash in in the village of Parasanon, one soldier was wounded and expired later in the hospital.

The troops also found the body of a rebel with carbine rifle and IED and several personal belongings of the rebels. Another encounter with communist rebels left one soldier dead in Bukidnon province Friday afternoon, another army spokesman said.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division told GMA News that the clash that lasted for two hours erupted at the village of Lilingayon of Valencia City, Bukidnon at 2 p.m.

Soldiers and police troopers rushed to the area after learning that NPA rebels were in the area extorting money from residents, but rebels opened fireon them killing one.

Martinez said the troops, however managed to drive the rebels away.

Casualties from the NPA’s side were undetermined but civilians told the army they saw rebels dragging some of their comrades on their route of withdrawal, the spokesperson said.

Troops scoured the area and recovered two AK47, two M653 rifle grenades , and five M16 A1 rifles; one Improvised Explosive Device; eight AK47, three M14, and one M16 magazines, three Handheld radios, NPA personal belongings.

On Friday, the Supreme Court has granted a petition filed by the presidential office for the temporary release of two jailed communist leaders to enable them to participate in renewed peace negotiations set to begin in Oslo, Norway towards the end of August.

The talks — aim to bring an end to a decades long guerilla war against the government. Since his landslide victory in the May 9 election, President Rodrigo Duterte has been making overtures toward the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Previous negotiations with the CPP-NDF collapsed in 2004 after the communists withdrew from the negotiating table on account of the renewed inclusion of Sison and the NPA on the United States terrorist list.

In 2014, negotiations again failed because previous President Benigno Aquino III turned down the rebels’ demand to release detained comrades — accusing the rebels of insincerity in efforts to achieve a political settlement.

In his peace overtures, Duterte — who served as a mayor for 22 years prior to taking office — has said that he will release all political prisoners if party leaders return from exile and sit down for negotiations.

He has also offered the CPP posts in his new government to smooth the way.

The military estimates that the number of NPA members has dropped from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s to less than 4,000.