Philippine soldiers killed 13 communist guerrilla rebels in two separate clashes on Saturday, in what military officials described as one of the biggest victories over the insurgents in years.
Eleven New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed around noon in San Narciso town, south of Manila, while two rebels were killed in a pre-dawn gunbattle in Botolan town, northwest of the capital.
Military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos said both clashes were a result of tip-offs from civilians, which showed that the government’s new counter-insurgency strategy was working.
“This is by far the largest number of NPA casualties in one single encounter in recent history,” he said, describing the San Narciso clash.
Fifteen rebels were setting up an ambush for troops on a roadside when soldiers intercepted them, said local army commander Colonel Eduardo Ano.
Two soldiers were also wounded in the 30-minute gunfight, he said, adding that six guns and two grenade launchers were recovered.
“The (local population) gave us information. They must be getting tired of the NPA,” Ano told AFP.
Just hours earlier, soldiers clashed with about a dozen NPA fighters in Botolan, killing two and capturing four, said local army commander, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Samson.
Five rifles and two grenades were recovered in the incident, he said in a statement.
The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies that began in 1969.
The government has said the NPA is largely deflated after years of losses in the battlefield with only about 4,000 fighters nationwide as of 2011 from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s.
However the group remains active, attacking military and police outposts and looting and extorting money from rural businesses like mining companies and plantations.
In April, the guerrillas killed 11 soldiers and a civilian in a daring ambush of three army convoys.
President Benigno Aquino’s government re-opened peace talks with the communists in February last year but the talks have been delayed by the rebels’ demand to release detained comrades.