Philippine troops kill 10 communist rebels in a clash, in the latest blow to decades-long insurgency

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine troops killed at least 10 suspected communist guerrillas in a clash in a remote northern area in the latest blow to a decades-old insurgency that has weakened considerably, with only about a thousand guerrillas remaining, military and security officials said Friday.

Army troops caught up with about 20 New People’s Army guerrillas who were withdrawing from an earlier clash with government forces last week, sparking a firefight Wednesday that killed 10 rebels, including three commanders, near a village in Pantabangan town in Nueva Ecija province, the army said.

Thirteen rifles and a pistol were recovered from the area of the fighting, which was near a key dam, it said. Troops were pursuing about 10 other guerrillas who withdrew from the remote area, regional army spokesperson Maj. Jimson Masangkay said by telephone.

Brig. Gen. Norwin Joseph Pasamonte, an army infantry brigade commander, commended the troops but expressed sadness over the rebel deaths. “The government did not fail in appealing to them to surrender and return to normal life,” Pasamonte said in a statement, adding that the deaths should help convince the remaining guerrillas to give up.

Nueva Ecija, a rice-growing region in the north, used to be a hotbed of the communist insurgency decades ago, but less than 50 Maoist guerrillas remain in the area, Masangkay said.

Last November, the government and the communist rebels agreed to resume talks aimed at ending the armed insurgency, one of Asia’s longest, after meeting in the Norwegian capital of Oslo to address key obstacles to intermittent peace negotiations, according to Norwegian mediators.

Actual peace talks, however, have not restarted under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Philippine officials say about 1,000 communist fighters remain after years of rebel setbacks, surrenders and factionalism. Peace talks brokered by Norway collapsed under previous President Rodrigo Duterte after both sides accused the other of continuing deadly attacks despite the negotiations.

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