MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine troops killed eight suspected communist guerrillas in a jungle clash Wednesday near a central town, foiling a plan by the insurgents to attack a military outpost to mark the anniversary of their decades-long rebellion, military officials said.
Army troops battled the New People's Army guerrillas on and off for half a day in a mountainous area near Miagao town in Iloilo province and later retrieved eight bodies of rebels, four assault rifles, anti-personnel mines and rebel documents, regional army commander Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo said, adding there were no army casualties.
Villagers tipped off the army about the presence of 50 to 70 guerrillas in the uninhabited rural region and army troops launched an assault, Arevalo said.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels.
The Marxist insurgency has raged mostly in the Philippine countryside for more than half a century in one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions. The military estimates about 3,500 armed guerrillas remain after battle setbacks, infighting and surrenders weakened their forces in decades of fighting, although the rebels say they have more fighters.
President Rodrigo Duterte took a reconciliatory approach to the rebels and offered key Cabinet posts to left-wing activists when he entered office in 2016 to foster peace negotiations brokered by Norway. The cordial atmosphere unraveled after government forces and the rebels accused each other of insincerity and of launching attacks against each other.
Duterte later said he decided to terminate the talks because the rebels were demanding to share power in a coalition government, which he said he rejected because it could lead to his impeachment or prompt the military or police to kill him.
The rebels have not publicly demanded a share in political power in talks with the Duterte administration, although the issue could have been discussed if the negotiations had not collapsed and both sides proceeded to tackle an agenda on political and constitutional reforms.