NPA Insurgents Attack After Ceasefire with Philippine Government Ends
On February 9, insurgents from the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines took three local villagers and burned construction equipment. The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Founded in 1968, many joined the CPP because of the harshness of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. At its largest, the insurgency had approximately 25,000 people, but only has around 4,000 today.
Conflict between the Philippines government and the insurgency continued for more than 40 years and caused the deaths of at least 35,000 soldiers, insurgents, and civilians.
The two sides attempted to pursue peace talks, most recently under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The preliminary round of talks took place in June 2016.
The first formal round of peace talks occurred in August in Oslo, Norway, with both the government and insurgents reaffirming unilateral ceasefires that they previously declared. The second round took place in Oslo in October and third in Rome in January, but both ultimately failed to implement a bilateral agreement.
The Philippines Star reported that the NPA allowed the ceasefire to expire on February 10. The NPA claimed that this is a result of the government’s failure to release political prisoners and the military’s alleged intrusion into territory held by rebels.
In response, the Philippine government ended its ceasefire with the CPP-NPA on February 3. Duterte claimed that he wanted to work with the insurgents, but felt that too many soldiers had already died.
Duterte claimed, “We cannot have a peaceful generation. There will be always be a fight.”
On Tuesday, Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the government declared “all out war” against the rebels. Lorenzano added that the Philippines considers the CPP, NPA and sub-group National Democratic Front (NDF) as terrorists groups.
The government also suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity, which allowed individuals associated with the NDF to travel freely without being arrested.
On Wednesday, NPA insurgents killed an army soldier in the town of Santo Niño in the Cayagan province of Luzon island. In a statement, rebels said that they carried out the attack in response to the declaration of war.
The Thursday attacks took place in the town of Talakag in the province of Bukidnon in the north of Mindanao, the southernmost island of the Philippines. The government pursued around 60 NPA members who seized the three villagers, one of whom was a policeman.
For now, the future remains unclear as tensions continue to rise.