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AFP to NPA: Stop extortion on businessmen and land owners

The Philippine Army said on Monday (July 16) that the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Western Visayas must stop their extortion activities. This was due to the renewed peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is the mother unit of the rebels, NPA is their armed wing, and National Democratic Front (NDF) is their political arm.

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said the army would continue to convince NPA rebels to talk on peace, even if NDF has rejected the government’s proposal.

“We ask the NDF for talks and this extortion is one issue that needs to be addressed. Let us not take away goods and money from what the people have worked hard for. Instead, let us bring the goods to them which the Philippine Army is doing now,” said Mabanta.

The military has also asked the CPP-NPA-NDF to be more open minded on the peace talks on behalf of the people of Western Visayas.

“We will never falter in our call for peace. We will continue to ask the CPP-NPA-NDF for a localized dialogue for peace,” he added.

He revealed that the rebels in Western Visayas have collected approximately P27 million from businesses, private individuals, and politicians in 2011 and that the insurgents have also imposed taxes on land owners, who are being coerced to pay P1,500 per hectare of land.

Although the communist rebels are slowly losing support, as military claimed, the insurgents still manage to collect huge sums from private enterprises and individuals.

Military records have shown that extortion is still a rampant practice of the group, resulting in a total of P300 million extorted money from businessmen last year, which is way higher than the P95 million extorted from January to November of 2010.

The NPA, one of the longest-running insurgencies in Asia that began in 1969, has been in constant conflict with the government. But the group, according to government claims, has reduced in number after losing for years in the battlefield. From its peak of 26,000 members in the 1980s, it is estimated that the NPA has dropped to 4,000 fighters nationwide as of 2011.

“We have been receiving a lot of surrender fielders from NPA members wanting to return to normal life, thus we know that even within the ranks of the CPP-NPA-NDF there is a call for peace,” Mabanta said.

Regardless of a sharp drop in members, the group has remained in conflict with local military units in various rural areas in the country. Besides looting and extorting money from rural businesses like mining companies and plantations, they are known to attack military and police outposts by applying different guerrilla tactics,.