MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine troops clashed with communist rebels in an eastern town, leaving 10 guerrillas and two soldiers dead, military officials said Friday, in violence that comes just days before the resumption of peace talks aimed at ending one of Asia's longest-running rebellions.
Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, an army division commander, said the military did not recover the rebels' bodies but witnesses counted 10 killed among 30 guerrillas encountered by troops Thursday in General Nakar town east of the capital Manila. Two soldiers also died and two more were wounded.
In Manila, nearly 100 members and supporters of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines, most wearing red shirts with red kerchiefs over their faces, marched Friday near the presidential palace in a show of force before Sunday's resumption of peace talks with the government.
The marchers carried red banners, including one with the party's hammer and sickle logo during the "lightning rally" as a handful of policemen watched. They urged the people to join the revolution and they chanted "Long Live the New People's Army," the party's military arm.
The rebels and government negotiators are set to resume Norway-brokered peace negotiations in the Netherlands following an escalation last month of deadly clashes and the calling off of separately declared cease-fires.
"Right now, there is no reason to declare a unilateral ceasefire because our President is more interested in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement," government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III told reporters. He said both sides have already exchanged drafts containing parameters of the bilateral cease-fire.
A country referee will need to be chosen, with Switzerland, Canada and Australia among those willing to do so, Bello said. Also to be discussed are sensitive issues like the rebels' collection of "revolutionary taxes," he added.
Founded in 1968, the rural-based guerrilla group has unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with five Philippine presidents before Duterte. Battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting have weakened the rebel group, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and remains a major Philippine security threat.