By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) - At least two pro-government militiamen were killed while two farm workers were injured in an attack by suspected communist rebels in the central Philippines on Sunday morning.
According to media reports, about 40 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) -- the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) -- attacked the detachment of the Special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit about 5.30 a.m. (2130GMT Saturday) in Negros Occidental, Western Visayas.
The ABS-CBN report said militiamen manning bunkhouses of the Aliwanay Farm Workers Association died after sustaining gunshot wounds while two farmers were wounded in an exchange of fire.
It also reported two farm workers as being taken captives by the NPA rebels, who set two bunkhouses on fire as they retreated.
The hostages, however, were released during an exchange of fire with arriving police and military.
The attack came nine days after communist rebels killed three soldiers and wounded two others in an ambush in Negros Occidental.
Since March 1969, the NPA has been waging one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies, mainly in the poorest regions of the Philippines.
According to government figures, the conflict has claimed around 40,000 lives, including more than 3,000 in the last eight years alone.
In his first press conference since winning the May 9 election, president-elect Rodrigo Duterte announced that he would consider offering the CPP posts in the Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Before the polls, Duterte had invited the CPP’s exiled founder -- Jose Maria Sison, his former professor at a Manila university -- back to the Philippines.
Sison, 77, currently resides in the Netherlands, having fled to Europe after peace talks with the Philippine government failed in 1987.
He has said he looks forward to the acceleration of peace negotiations, a ceasefire, the release of all “political prisoners” and his return home.
The military estimates that the number of NPA members has dropped from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s to less than 4,000.
In 2010, outgoing President Benigno Aquino III revived peace talks with the CPP, but shelved them in 2013, accusing the rebels -- who demanded the release of detained comrades -- of insincerity in efforts to achieve a political settlement.
Duterte is set to assume office June 30.