MANILA: Philippine troops shot dead five communist rebels in armed clashes on Tuesday, just days after both sides agreed to resume peace talks that have been stalled for nearly five years.
Troops on morning patrol ran into a group of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels hiding in an abandoned house in a mountainous area of the southern Philippines, triggering a clash that left three guerrillas dead, the military said.
Two NPA rebels were also killed in a separate firefight in the east of the country, according to the military statement.
The fighting came ahead of a Christmas truce agreed to by both sides that is due to take effect on December 16.
The truce was brokered last week when negotiators from both sides agreed to resume peace talks, which have been stalled since 2005, in February next year.
It was not clear how Tuesday’s violence would affect the talks, which are slated to be held in Oslo, Norway.
But the military said on Monday that its forces would remain on alert against possible NPA attacks during the Christmas ceasefire.
“We will be ready to react, we will be on active defence posture and we will be ready to provide security to threatened villages and cities,” military spokesman Brigadier General Jose Mabanta said.
The NPA is the 5,000-strong armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a Maoist rebellion since 1969 that has claimed thousands of lives.