File photo by Karlos Manlupig
MANILA, Philippines – A total of 36 "small unit" operations have been conducted against the New People's Army (NPA) since the ceasefire and peace talks were terminated, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday, February 26.
According to Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, the operations left at least 14 communist rebels dead while government forces reported 7 deaths.
About 17 members of the NPA have also been arrested while 51 of them have surrendered to authorities. Arevalo expects the number to rise as the "all-out war" continues.
"The exodus is expected to continue with numerous others sending their surrender feelers to the AFP," he said. "We see more of them returning to the folds of government. Not only because of battle fatigue, stress, and hunger after years of protracted struggle, but more so because of the realization about the inutility of their fight that has now resorted to banditry and oppression."
The AFP's ongoing offensive started after President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the ceasefire and peace talks with the communist rebels earlier this month. Duterte said the government was on the "losing end of the bargain" despite walking the extra mile for peace.
The AFP, however, remains open to the possibility of reviving peace negotiations. But as long as the NPA doesn't agree to the conditions, government forces "will continue with operations to stop their atrocities that impair the lives of people in the communities."
"More than anyone, it is our soldiers who want peace," Arevalo said. "This is why the AFP hopes the NPA will heed our government's call and comply with the conditions that shall bring the situation conducive to peace negotiations and towards permanently ending the hostilities that mar this more than 4 decades of insurgency."
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella previously said the communist rebels must agree to a bilateral ceasefire deal that will put an end to their collection of revolutionary taxes. The military calls this tax collection "extortion," but the NPA justifies it as a legitimate function of the revolutionary government. (READ: Duterte bats for 'strategic shift' in ending war with Reds) – Rappler.com