COTABATO - A member of the New People's Army was killed after a firefight erupted between rebels and troops from the 39th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Biangan in Makilala, Cotabato on Sunday.
The rebel was identified as Rojit Estampa Ranara, a resident of Sitio Patulangon, Barangay Zone 1, Sta Cruz, Davao del Sur.
Government troops recovered three high-powered rifles and several personal belongings in the area.
The military confirmed that these items belonged to the Guerrilla Front 51, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the NPA.
Several extortion letters signed by a certain Ricardo Fermiza, spokesman of Guerilla Front 51, were also recovered.
According to report from the 39 IB, Fermiza has been extorting money from business owners and ordinary civilians since 2014.
The encounter took place amid the third round of peace negotiations in Rome between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Prior to the encounter, armed men reportedly harassed a truck driver in a bid to extort money from a construction company.
The Makilala Police received a report that a driver of Santos Land Development Corp, Delio Tongcos, was harassed by four armed men riding on two motorcycles in Purok Pili Nut, Barangay Malasila in Makilala.
According to the driver, the armed men fired at him and threatened that the company will suffer consequences if they fail to give in to their demands. The armed men then forcibly took the key of the truck and escaped immediately.