By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – The Philippines’ military confirmed Thursday the death of three leftist rebels and one soldier in a series of clashes, just days after President-elect Rodrigo Duterte offered cabinet posts to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division spokesman, said in a text message that three clashes broke out in two provinces of troubled southern Mindanao island that known to be strongholds of the New People’s Army (NPA), the CPP’s armed wing.
In the first encounter, a two-hour exchange of fire started at 1.55 p.m. (0555GMT) Wednesday in the sub-village of Booy in Davao Del Norte province, leaving two NPA members and a soldier of the 60th Infantry Battalion dead.
Around an hour later, a clash broke out in Laak town in neighboring Compostela Valley province, but did not result in any casualties.
The third encounter occurred at 5.50 p.m. and left another rebel dead in Booy, according to Batchar.
A number of weapons were reportedly recovered after the battles, including several automatic rifles, at least three improvised explosive devices, a 200-meter (656-foot) detonating cord, blasting caps and “subversive" documents.
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, Duterte announced Monday 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.