MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Fourteen communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels were killed in clashes with government troops in Nasugbu, Batangas on Tuesday, the military and police said.
Five NPA guerillas were killed while two other rebels were injured in Sitio Pinamuntasan, Barangay Aga, according to a Nasugbu police report.
Nine other NPA rebels were killed in a separate gunbattle in Sitio Batulao, Barangay Kaylaway, police said.
The government side reported five injuries. The injured rebels and government troops were brought to nearby hospitals.
Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, said government troops recovered 12 high-powered firearms from the encounter site.
The Air Force's 730th Combat Group and the Nasugbu Municipal Police responded to information that armed men were present in the area at around 8:30 p.m. when they were fired upon, the police said. A running gunbattle then ensued.
The military believes that the fatalities are remnants of the same NPA group that suffered heavy casualties during an encounter with the elements of the 730th Combat Group under Maj. Engelberto Nioda last November 20, 2017 at Baragay Utod.
Batangas City provincial director Senior Supt. Alden Delvo told DZMM Tuesday night that another encounter ensued between government forces and NPA rebels in the province last week.
"Pangalawang beses na ito. May encounter din kami nitong nakaraang lingo, walang na-neutralize, may nahuli kami. Nafile-an namin ng kaso, kasamaang palad naman na-release naman na pero yung desisyon naman ng prosecutor ay atin namang binibigyan ng pansin," Delvo told radio DZMM.
"Meron kaming na-identify, isa siyang platoon leader pero saka na namin ibibigay yung pangalan kapag nabigay na namin yung official report," he added.
In a statement, Major Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, urged the communist rebels to surrender.
"This is in line with the president’s pronouncement that NPAs are terrorists. We appealed to the NPAs to surrender and be productive citizens in their communities," the statement read. "We are offering them the opportunity to live normal lives, be with their families, enjoy the benefits of becoming productive citizens and reap the fruits of their hard earned labor. We will help them. They refused and these are the results."
Peace talks terminated
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday he has terminated intermittent peace talks with the Maoist-led rebels and would consider them "terrorists" because hostilities had continued during negotiations.
Ending the nearly half-century long conflict with the communists, in which more than 40,000 people have been killed, was among Duterte's priorities when he took office in June last year.
Duterte said he would consider the political arm of the Maoists a "terrorist group" and was demanding that dozens of rebel leaders he freed last year in order to restart talks turn themselves in.
"I am ordering those I have released temporarily to surrender or face again punitive action," Duterte in a speech to soldiers.
"Let it not be said that I did not try to reach out to them," he said.
Duterte on Thursday signed a proclamation ending the peace talks, which started in August last year and were brokered by Norway. Talks have been intermittent since 1986.
"We find it unfortunate that their members have failed to show their sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peaceful negotiations," Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, said in a statement late on Thursday.
In May, government negotiators cancelled a round of formal talks with the rebels in the Netherlands as the guerrillas stepped up attacks in the countryside.
The rebels had no choice but to intensify guerrilla warfare in rural areas, Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), said in a statement.
The NDF, the political arm of the Maoist guerrillas, said it regretted the unilateral cancellation of talks on such vital social and economic reforms.
Government troops were advised to stay alert on the movements of the estimated 3,800 leftist guerrillas, said military spokesman Major-General Restituto Padilla. - with a report from Reuters