MANILA, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Philippines armed forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos has called for Communist negotiators to be "sincere" in peace negotiations.
"The New People's Army members should be sincere and committed in pushing for the peace talks," Burgos said of Manila's discussions for NPA rebels.
He said the group could prove its sincerity by not attacking civilians and other "soft" targets and halting extortion campaigns.
"The policies set by those in the higher echelons (of the communist leadership) should be translated to those on the ground," Burgos said in a report Monday in The Philippine Star.
The CPP-NPA has disputed Philippines military claims of victory over militants in Negros, stating that their militancy has increased its strength in early 2013.
Underlining their point that they are hardly a spent force, last week more than 60 NPA members raided a Moro community in a town in Makilala, North Cotabato, capturing a number of firearms.
Lt. Manuel Gatus, commander of the Charlie Company of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said the rebels arrived on foot at Sitio Lacobe in Barangay Malabuan in Makilala town and pretended they were soldiers from the 38th Infantry Battalion allegedly collecting the villagers' firearms for inspection.
"The villagers, mostly members of a Maguindanaon tribe, were told to gather at the village center for a meeting and while this was on going, some of the rebels forcibly entered the houses and confiscated whatever firearms they could recover from the place," he said.
The Maoist NPA is the armed wing of Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Communist Party and was formed in March 1969. It has been conducting a campaign on principle of "protracted people's war," extorting "revolutionary taxes" from business owners in areas it controls. The CCP refers to the NPA as "the tax enforcement agency of the people's revolutionary government."
The U.S. State Department, along with the European Union via its Common Foreign and Security Policy, has designated the NPA as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Pursuing a conciliatory strategy however, the Filipino government in 2011 de-listed the NPA as a terrorist organization and undertaken resumed preliminary peace talks with NPA prior to formal negotiations with the CPP.
The Philippines armed forces has declared a number of Mindanao regions "insurgency-free," saying insurgent strength is insufficient to affect a jurisdiction's residents and their activities.
Such a declaration allow for security operations to maintain peace and order to be returned to local officials.
The military said NPA's number of guerrillas has shrunk to 4,000 from a peak of 24,000 in the mid-1980s.
The CCP disputes the reports of the military, however, citing the encounters and ambushes to back up their claim.