Government troops killed five suspected communist rebels during a shootout on Negros Island in the central Philippines on Thursday, the military said.
A gunbattle erupted in Mabinay, a town in the mountains of Negros Oriental province, while soldiers and police commandos mounted an operation after receiving reports that men with weapons had occupied two houses in a local village, said Capt. Francis Salcedo, a spokesman for the army’s 11th Infantry Battalion.
The government forces were fired up as they approached the houses, provoking a half-hour shootout with members of the New People’s Army (NPA) – the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – he said in a statement.
Troops recovered from the slain suspects some assault rifles, ammunition, an improvised explosive device, walkie-talkies and other items, Salcedo said.
Lt Col. Ramir Redosendo, the battalion’s commanding officer, said troops also recovered the bodies of five NPA guerrillas as well as documents with “high intelligence value.”
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those killed communist-terrorists,” Redosendo said.
He said there were no casualties on the government side.
Since 1969, the Philippine communist guerrillas have been waging one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who styles himself as a leftist, had invited his one-time university professor Jose Maria Sison – the founder of the country’s communist movement – to talk peace. The prospects for peace, however, were short lived after both sides accused each other of violence.
Sison, in a statement from exile in the Netherlands on Tuesday, accused Duterte of being a “paper tiger” and said that leftist forces were gaining ground rapidly.
He accused Duterte of sabotaging the economy as the country confronted the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Duterte is lucky if he can survive politically before the middle of 2022 or he will be even more unlucky and meet a more powerful resistance if he succeeds to extend his power beyond 2022 through any foul means offensive to the sovereign will of the people,” Sison said.
The government did not respond to the message from the leader of the Philippine communists, but it had repeatedly downplayed Sison’s threats in the past.