ZAMBOANGA CITY: Three members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed during a clash with soldiers on Wednesday in Compostela Valley.
Officials said the fighting broke out in the village of Tubungco in Montevista town after patrolling troops ran into a small band of New People’s Army rebels. The fighting stopped after rebels fled and soldiers recovered an automatic pistol and several backpacks from the slain gunmen.
Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the rebels were allegedly extorting money from villagers. “The villagers themselves are saying the rebels were extorting money from them,” he told The Manila Times.
Caber said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, the regional military chief, ordered security forces to hunt down the rebels and deploy soldiers in villages frequented by NPA.
“The order of General Cruz is clear and that is for troops run after the rebels and to protect the communities from harassment and extortion by the NPA,” Caber said.
There was no immediate statement from the NPA about the military allegations. The rebels have been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate Maoist state in the country.
Government peace talks with the rebels had collapsed after Manila rejected demands by communist leaders for the release of all political prisoners. But there are efforts from both sides to resume the negotiations following the arrest in March of communist rebel chieftain Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma, in Cebu province.