Philippine communist rebel base overrun

Eight killed in armed clash with military

Philippine communist rebel base overrun

A Philippine military patrol (file picture: Richele Umel/AFP) reporter, Manila, Philippines

July 4, 2013

At least eight communist rebels including two women were killed on Wednesday as government forces took over the main base of the insurgent New People’s Army (NPA) in the southern province of Sorsognon.

The latest blow to the dwindling NPA came amid calls from Church and civil society groups for both sides to resume peace talks in a bid to end a conflict which has continued for four decades.

“Now is the time for the NPA to consider their position. This unfortunate incident would not have happened if their comrades had chosen the right and non-violent path to air their greivances,” Lt-Col Medel Aguilar, spokesman for the army’s 9th Infantry Division, said on Thursday.

Peace talks have been stalled for nearly two years with the rebels demanding the release of their consultants to the process and the government saying it will only return to negotiations if all insurgent attacks cease.

Bishop Deogracias Iniguez of Kalookan in Manila said the impasse in the peace negotiations "shows the seriousness of the issues we have to look into more closely before we can achieve real peace in our country."

Among the various rebel groups operating in the Philippines, the NPA insurgency has proven the most intractable in recent years as negotiations with other groups have progressed.

Despite dwindling numbers, the NPA still holds considerable sway in poor, rural areas across the Philippines where they receive material and moral support from a population which has endured the brunt of the country’s poverty gap.

The military has estimated that the rebels only have about 4,000 armed men under their command compared to more than 26,000 at their peak 30 years ago.