Philippines-CPP/NPA (1969 – first combat deaths)

Updated: August 2014

The Conflict at a Glance

Who (are the main combatants): The Government of the Philippines, with support from the United States, against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA). The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) represents the CPP/NPA and 13 smaller communist groups in political talks. As of mid-2013 the NPA is estimated to have 4,000 members. In 2011, the government delisted the NPA as a terrorist organization in order to engage in peace talks, although the group remains on the US State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

What (started the conflict): The CPP aims to overthrow the Philippine Government using guerrilla-style warfare. Tactics include kidnappings of locals and foreigners, extortion and killings. As many as 40,000 combat-related deaths have been reported since 1969.

When (has fighting occurred): The CPP/NPA was established in 1969 by Jose Maria Sison. The group was particularly active in the 1980s during a period of Martial Law, but its influence has since waned. Formal talks were held between the government and the CPP in Oslo in 2011, but have since deteriorated despite multiple attempts to reconvene.

Where (has the conflict taken place): The CPP/NPA is active all across the country, but most of its efforts are focused in and around the capital city of Manila.

Summary
Type of Conflict
Parties to the Conflict
Status of the Fighting
Number of Deaths
Political Developments
Background
Arms Sources

Economic Factors 

Summary

2013 Low-intensity fighting continued throughout the year, with the NPA engaging in several bomb and gun attacks. At least 54 people were killed and a further 73 died in mid-term election violence. Peace talks between the Philippine government and the CPP/NDFP fell apart in February after failure to agree on a joint declaration. In June, and again in December, the NDFP announced that it would not resume serious negotiations until President Aquino was finished his term or ousted from office. In early November, the central islands were hit by Typhoon Haiyan, suffering major damage, death and displacement. In response, the CPP announced a temporary ceasefire and ordered NPA members to help with relief efforts.

2012 Peace efforts between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines/New People’s Army (NDFP/NPA) were hampered by continued violence and distrust between the parties. The traditional holiday truce was called at the end of 2012, but was broken by both parties. The conflict in 2012 killed between 86 and 119 people, of whom approximately 50 per cent were security forces personnel. Civilians were indirect casualties and victims of targeted attacks. Military offensives against the NPA were moderately successful, although no meaningful decline in violence resulted. On a positive note, one NPA splinter group signed a closure agreement with the government.

2011 Despite formal peace talks between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces, violent clashes continued. Both sides in the conflict continued to be accused of gross human rights violations. Another Christmas-time ceasefire was violated by an NPA attack.

2010 The New People’s Army (NPA) continued to clash with government forces. Clashes with were heaviest in the first half of the year as the military raced to meet President Gloria Arroyo’s deadline of June 30 to eradicate the NPA. After the presidential election in May, the new government of President Benigno Aquino and the NPA agreed to a Christmas-time ceasefire (Dec. 17 to Jan. 3). The Aquino administration vowed to find a political settlement in its battle with the NPA. On Dec. 14, days before the ceasefire was to go into effect, the NPA killed 12 people (mostly soldiers), and vowed to continue its revolt despite the ceasefire. Peace talks are set to resume in February 2011.

2009 The New People’s Army (NPA) continued its armed violence this year, resulting in hundreds of deaths from rebel attacks or clashes with government forces. Attempts were made at peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as well as the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) (an umbrella group that represents 14 communist guerrilla groups in political talks), only to collapse in September after the government refused to meet the communist rebels’ demand to free several communist guerilla leaders from prison. Despite the failures of the peace talks, positive steps for disarmament were taken as a result of the Social Integration Program (SIP) introduced by the Arroyo government in 2008. SIP, which provides support for rebels willing to surrender, has proven to be largely successful, with nearly 600 NPA rebels surrendering this year alone.

2008 Skirmishes continued between the New People’s Army (NPA) and military forces. The NPA continued its strategy of disrupting and drawing “revolutionary taxation” from mining operations, while the military targeted mining regions as a means to sever NPA funding and encourage foreign economic development. Hundreds became displaced this year, mainly in these mining regions. The government’s Social Integration Program (SIC) provided financial assistance for 225 rebels in exchange for surrender, and may explain reports that NPA numbers have been reduced. Attempts to resume formal peace talks in late 2008 failed, as did attempts by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to create a joint campaign with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao. To date, no government or military personnel have been persecuted in relation to extrajudicial killings of leftist activists, despite a UN report and government taskforce documenting military involvement in cases of disappearance.

2007 The international community sharply criticized the Philippine government for its role in the extrajudicial killings of leftist activists since 2001. The United Nations began an inquiry into these killings, with the report due in 2008. President Gloria Arroyo remained committed to defeating the National People’s Army (NPA) by the end of her presidential term in 2010, but government forces continued to struggle in the battle against the 6,000-strong NPA. Elections in May were considered free and fair, but increased violence and accusations of electoral fraud marred the results. Thousands of people were displaced by the conflict this year.

2006 Rebels were responsible for bombing many private companies, and attacking police and military targets. The government announced funding to increase its anti-rebel program, strengthening its offensive and increasing clashes between the military and rebels. An estimated 200 combatants were killed.

2005 Peace talks between the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/New People’s Army (NPA) and the government remained stalled and escalated fighting killed more than 100 people. The Revolutionary Party of Workers in Mindanao, a breakaway faction of the CPP/NPA in Mindanao, signed a ceasefire agreement with the government.

2004 Amid failed peace negotiations, sporadic clashes killed more than 60 people, primarily combatants. The communist rebel groups remained on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations and refused to negotiate further until removed.

2003 Sporadic clashes continued between the communist rebels and government forces, resulting in approximately 40 deaths. Peace talks resumed mid-year, but with little success. The government continued strengthening its military forces, with the aid of U.S. arms and training, as part of the global war on terror.

2002 The conflict killed at least 30 people this year as communist rebels continued to attack army personnel and civilians, and the government intensified its counterattacks by drawing on U.S. counterinsurgency training and support.

2001 Clashes were reported throughout the year, including one of the bloodiest in more than a decade in November. In June, the government suspended peace talks after a congressman was killed by the rebels.

2000 There were sporadic clashes between government forces and the communist rebels. At least 50 people (civilians and soldiers) were killed.

1999 After the suspension of peace talks in May, fighting between government forces and communist rebels escalated. At least 15 people were killed in fighting. Extrajudicial and political killings accounted for many more fatalities.

1998 Despite renewed peace efforts in 1998, the Philippine Army was reassigned counterinsurgency operations on the island of Negros as part of an escalating government campaign against communist rebels.

1997 In April, after a short respite for peace talks, government forces were ordered to resume full hostilities against the communist rebels. Meanwhile, rebel attacks increased, especially on the National Police.

1996 Although there were few reported direct clashes between communist rebels and government forces, both sides continued to perpetrate political and extrajudicial killings.

1995 Fighting between communist rebels and government forces declined, but human-rights abuses—including killings—mostly by military and paramilitary groups, continued.

Type of Conflict

State control

Parties to the Conflict

1. Government of the Philippines: The government is led by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was elected in a landslide victory in May 2010 for the standard six year term. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has approximately 125,000 personnel; the Philippines National Police, a paramilitary organization, has 40,500 members.

Supported by:

2. The United States: Since 2002, the United States has had a significant military presence in the Philippines, training Philippine troops in counterterror operations. There are indications that this may lead to the direct involvement of U.S. forces in the conflict, although under the Philippine Constitution, the United States is permitted only to arm and train members of the Philippine Armed Forces.

Versus

3. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP): led by party founder Jose Maria Sison. Its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), was estimated to number 6,000 fighters in 2010. In 2011 the Government of the Philippines delisted the NPA as a terrorist organization. This move is in line with ongoing peace negotiations.

4. The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP): the political wing of the CPP and an umbrella organization that represents the NPA and 13 smaller communist guerrilla groups in political talks.

5. Breakaway factions of the CPP/NPA: Several armed factions have broken away from the CPP/NPA including but not limited to:

a. The Revolutionary People’s Army (RPA) under the Revolutionary Workers Party – Mindanao (RPM-M) was founded in 2001 and signed a ceasefire with the government in October 2005. The group suspended peace talks in February 2006.

b. The Revolutionary People’s Army under the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP-RHB) which remains active but weak.

c. The Armed Partisans of Labor (APP) under the Filipino Workers Party (PMP) was founded in 2002, but is largely inactive and nonviolent.

d. The Revolutionary Proletarian Army – Alex Boncayo Brigade (RPA-ABB) under the Revolutionary Workers Party – Philippines (RPM-P) which signed a peace deal with the government in 2000, but continued fighting because of unresolved issues. In 2012, the group signed a closure agreement, transforming it into an unarmed socio-economic organization.

e. Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) which signed a 1986 pact with the government, but continued to push for regional autonomy in the Cordillera mountain range.
[Source: Small Arms Survey]

Status of Fighting

2013 Fighting between Philippine forces and the NPA was sporadic. From January to May, 51 people were killed in election-related violence across the Philippines. The NPA led multiple raids and ambushes across the northern and southern islands, resulting in dozens of deaths. In May, 7 police were killed and 7 were injured in a bomb and gun attack by the NPA north of Manila. In October, a further 22 candidates and supporters were killed and 27 wounded. Nearly 600 were arrested for violating an elections gun ban (police confiscated 500 firearms, 4000 rounds of ammunition, 191 knives and 68 grenades). More than 800,000 candidates competed for chairmanships and other posts in urban and rural villages. Out of over 42,000 villages, 6,000 are considered security hotspots due to electoral, Muslim separatist or communist violence.

2012 Clashes continued throughout the year. Insurgents used bombs, ambushes, and other means to kill political figures and members of security forces. Civilians, sometimes specifically targeted, were wounded and killed. Throughout the summer months NPA attacks claimed the lives of dozens, mostly security forces. In June and July the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) experienced some success against the NPA insurgents. Thirteen NPA fighters were killed and the AFP captured a major NPA base. In September a grenade explosion injured 48 people, mostly children. According to the NPA the intended target was an army headquarters. This incident severely hampered ongoing peace negotiations. In December Typhoon Bopha damaged an NPA stronghold. Subsequently, the NPA announced a month-long ceasefire during recovery efforts, a move reciprocated by the government. However, this ceasefire was not respected; in mid-December NPA insurgents attacked a police station, killing eight officers. The NPA continued to commit financially motivated kidnappings in 2012.

2011 The 2010 Christmas-time ceasefire was violated on two occasions, with both sides accusing the other of launching the offensive. During the ceasefire, 14 NPA militants surrendered and were introduced to the government’s social integration program. In September, a group of more than 100 CCP-NPA fighters attacked a local police station, killing one policeman, and at least of NPA militant. In October, the NPA staged a series of attacks on mining companies, accusing the government of prioritizing foreign investment over the rights of indigenous peoples. At least seven prisoners being held by the NPA were released in 2011 on humanitarian grounds. According to Human Rights Watch, extrajudicial killings and abductions of politicians, journalists and activists continued in 2011, while the government largely failed to prosecute military personnel implicated in such killings, even though strong evidence exists in many cases. An 18-day ceasefire was declared for Christmas-time, however the NPA launched an attack the day before the ceasefire, killing five soldiers.

2010 The New People’s Army (NPA) continued its campaign of bombings, kidnappings for ransom and targeting of public officials. Clashes with government forces were heaviest in the first half of the year as the military raced to meet President Gloria Arroyo’s deadline of June 30 to eradicate the NPA. The military acknowledged it could not meet this deadline, but reported that it had weakened the NPA. The government arrested a number of NPA leaders, and at least 10 NPA members surrendered. After the presidential election, the new government of President Benigno Aquino and the NPA agreed to a Christmas-time ceasefire (December 17 to January 3). On December 14, days before the ceasefire was to go into effect, the NPA killed 12 people (mostly soldiers), and vowed to continue its revolt despite the ceasefire.

2009 The New People’s Army (NPA) continued to attack police officers, soldiers, government officials and ordinary civilians, primarily to obtain equipment or arms and to enforce the collection of “revolutionary taxes.” Companies were often targeted by the rebels after failing comply with extortion demands. An NPA attack on a logging site on November 13 led to a battle with government forces that left 23 people dead. In late November, the country was shaken by the politically motivated massacre of more than 50 political activists. The incident was not directly related to the communist insurgency.

2008 Reports of New People’s Army (NPA) activity were sporadic. According to the Philippine National Police, the number of NPA fighters—once thought to number more than 10,000—was reduced to 5,700 by the end of 2007; 67 NPA fronts remained active. Clashes displaced thousands, especially indigenous communities in Surigao del Sur, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley. The government intensified counterinsurgency efforts. According to government data, 225 NPA rebels surrendered in 2008, turning in 149 firearms in exchange for financial assistance through the government’s Social Integration Program.

2007 The New People’s Army (NPA) continued to attack foreign-owned or backed mines and businesses, local town halls and other buildings, seizing weapons and supplies. NPA rebels disguised themselves as government soldiers during many of these raids. The government declared a ceasefire, but the rebels refused to comply. Thousands were displaced by the conflict again this year.

2006 New People’s Army (NPA) attacks on private businesses continued, including bombings of telecommunications towers and mining companies, with damages estimated at more than $1-million (U.S.). These attacks came after the companies refused to pay the rebels extortion fees. Attacks and weapons raids on government, military and police targets were common, with rebels often posing as soldiers to gain access. Rebels set fire to a bus and raided a school, holding 50 children and teachers hostage. The government launched major anti-communist operations, retraining and redeploying 3,000 soldiers from the Mindanao region. The police force was granted permission to join the military to fight the rebels. The fighting displaced an estimated 2,500 people.

2005 Low-level fighting escalated in the second half of the year when the New People’s Army (NPA) stepped up attacks on the military, police and private businesses. Fighting was concentrated in the northern Luzon Island and in north and west Mindanao island in the south of the country. Government troops also clashed with the RAP, a breakaway faction of the NPA. In October, another breakaway faction, the Revolutionary Party of Workers in Mindanao (RPM-M) signed a ceasefire agreement with the government.

2004 A failure to reach a peace agreement with the New People’s Army (NPA) extended the conflict. Although there were few major battles, a series of minor clashes killed more than 60 people.

2003 Sporadic fighting between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces occurred throughout the year. The communist rebel fighters continued guerrilla-style tactics against government forces, primarily on the country’s largest islands of Luzon and Mindanao. There were reports of the NPA recruiting children into their ranks.

2002 The NPA called for intensified assaults during the Christmas season, refusing to observe a traditional Christmas time truce. The military pledged that military support from the United States to fight Muslim extremists would also be used against the NPA.

2001 A number of attacks and counterattacks by government forces and the rebels were reported, even as peace negotiations were attempted.

2000 There were sporadic clashes between government forces and the communist rebels.

1999 Clashes between government forces and communist rebels increased after the suspension of peace talks in May 1999.

1998 Despite renewed peace efforts in 1998, the Philippine Army reinitiated counterinsurgency operations on the island of Negros as part of an escalating campaign against communist rebels.

1997 After a short respite for peace talks, government forces were ordered to resume full hostilities against the communist rebels in April. For their part, rebel attacks increased, especially on the National Police.

1996 Although direct clashes between combatants declined, human-rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, continued. Most of these were perpetrated by the armed forces, the national police, poorly trained civilian militias and private security forces.

Number of Dead and Displaced

Total: As many as 40,000 combat-related deaths have been reported since 1969.

2013 According to the International Crisis Group, there were at least 54 conflict-related deaths, a decline from 2012. Among the dead were 13 soldiers and police, 16 rebels and 25 civilians. Additionally, there were at least 51 election-related killings from January to May. In October, 22 village-election candidates and supporters were killed and 27 were wounded.

In early November, Typhoon Haiyan hit the smaller central islands of the Philippines. By December, the death toll was estimated at over 5,700. More than 11 million people were affected by the storm, 26,000 were injured and 4 million were displaced.

Refugees: According to the UNHCR, as of mid-2013 there were 747 refugees and 413 asylum seekers originating from the Philippines, and 16,905 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

2012 Information from various sources puts the 2012 fatality count between 86 and 119 people. According to International Crisis Group, 86 people died in the CPP conflict in 2012. This figure includes at least four civilians, 25 security forces personnel, and 23 insurgents. The U.S. Department of State reports that 58 members of security forces were killed in conflict with the NPA in 2012.

2011 According to various media reports, approximately 100 military forces were killed as a result of the conflict in 2011. International Crisis Group reported at least 30 non-military deaths.

2010 According to the U.S. Department of State Human Rights Report, which cites Philippine military figures, 263 military personnel and NPA insurgents were killed this year, along with an unknown number of civilians. The NPA killed 166 military personnel; the military killed 97 NPA insurgents; and the police killed 44 NPA insurgents.

2009 More than 300 people were estimated killed, including approximately 180 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, more than 100 government forces and approximately 80 civilians. [source: U.S. Department of State, Country Report on Human Rights Practices, 2009]

2008 The U.S. State Department, citing Philippine police and military figures, reported that the New People’s Army killed 140 government forces. Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines reported 173 arbitrary killings throughout the year.

2007 Approximately 200 government soldiers and New People’s Army rebels were killed this year. May elections brought a significant increase in violence; more than 120 civilians and politicians were killed shortly before and during the elections. There were an estimated 62 extrajudicial killings in the first half of 2007, down from 148 in the same time period last year.

2006 According to the Asia Pacific Daily Report, approximately 200 people, mostly rebels and government forces, were killed in clashes and bombings throughout the year.

2005 More than 100 people, mostly rebels and government soldiers, were killed in a series of clashes and bombings. In June, government troops clashed with rebels from the breakaway Revolutionary Army of the People and 24 combatants were killed. In October, heavy fighting between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces killed at least 60 people.

2004 More than 60 people, primarily combatants, were killed in clashes between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA).

2003 According to independent media reports, at least 40 people, including both rebel and government fighters, were killed this year.

2002 Media reports suggested that at least 30 people, mostly rebels, were killed in the fighting.

2001 According to media reports, at least 40 people died as a result of the fighting in 2001, the majority combatants. In November, one of the worst clashes in a decade occurred between soldiers and rebels, leaving 28 dead.

2000 At least 50 people (civilians and soldiers) were killed this year.

1999 At least 15 people died as a result of fighting and more than 100 in extrajudicial and political killings.

1998 Fewer died in fighting than those reported for 1997, but extrajudicial killings exceeded 200.

1997 At least 30 people were killed by renewed fighting and likely more in extrajudicial killings.

1996 The year saw at least 100 political killings.

1995 There were 172 political and extrajudicial killings and at least 56 more killed by the conflict.

1994 At least 200 people were killed.

Political Developments

2013 In April, during forthcoming midterm elections, the NPA collected millions of pesos from election extortion activities in order to buy arms and ammunition for its 4,000 member force. Talks between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDFP stalled in February after the parties failed to agree on a joint declaration regarding national sovereignty, agrarian reform and industrialization. In May, the government drafted a new framework to guide peace talks. The NDFP, which represents the communist rebels in peace negotiations with the Philippine government, stated in June and again in December that it would wait for President Aquino to step down before returning to talks and would continue its armed struggle. The NDFP accused the government of not honouring existing agreements and detaining communist leaders who are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The CPP recommitted to pushing Aquino out of office and ordered the NPA to intensify armed offensives.

Following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in November, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced a 10-day ceasefire and NPA fighters were ordered to help distribute food and water. They later extended the ceasefire another month, but criticized the government for a slow response to the disaster.

2012 The government has a stated goal of political settlement of all internal conflicts by 2016. Negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)suffered from low trust between parties. In particular, a NPA grenade attack against civilians was a major setback. The NPA claimed that the perpetrators would be dealt with through ‘revolutionary justice’, a claim the government treated with scorn. The government and NDFP had wildly different hopes for June peace talks in Oslo. The government wanted to focus on use of child soldiers and landmines, while the NDFP insisted on discussing immunity guarantees for their consultants, bilateral agreements, and the release of political prisoners. Despite these discouraging signals, on December 20 the government and the Communist Party/NPA announced the traditional nationwide holiday truce. This truce was broken by both parties by the end of the year. After signing a peace agreement in 2000 the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolution Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA/ABB), a splinter group of the NPA, signed a closure agreement with the government in 2012. This action transformed the group into an “unarmed, socio-economic organization.” This move was widely celebrated.

2011 For the first time since 2004 peace talks took place between the New Democratic Front and the government in Oslo. But the absence of a formal ceasefire and continued violence on the ground limited negotiations. Both sides in the conflict continued to be accused of gross human rights violations. The NPA executed at least two civilians in 2011 through its so-called People’s Court, which holds ad-hoc trials for what the NPA determine to be crimes against the people. The CPP announced in October that its leader Gregorio (Ka Roger) Rosal died of a heart attack. According to Human Rights Watch, extrajudicial killings and abductions of politicians, journalists and activists continued in 2011. The government largely failed to prosecute military personnel implicated in such killings, even though strong evidence existed in many cases.

2010 Presidential elections were held in May, and Benigno Noynoy Aquino III won a landslide victory. Incumbent president Gloria Arroyo won a seat in Congress. In the final weeks of Arroyo’s term, the military increased its efforts to eradicate the New People’s Army (NPA), but acknowledged it could not meet the June 30 deadline for full eradication set by Arroyo. The Aquino administration vowed to find a political settlement in its battle with the NPA. In October, the government appointed a panel to negotiate with the NPA and assured the rebels that the resumption of peace talks was not conditional on a ceasefire. By December, the government announced its aim to find a political settlement within a three-year timeframe. The NPA agreed to a ceasefire for the Christmas period (Dec. 17 to Jan. 3), the longest ceasefire agreement in 10 years. On Dec. 14, days before the ceasefire was to go into effect, the NPA killed 12 people (mostly soldiers), and vowed to continue its revolt despite the ceasefire. Formal talks were set to resume in February 2011.

2009 At the beginning of the year, the Arroyo government issued orders for the military to reduce the number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebel bases by 80 per cent by mid-2010. Arroyo stressed the need to terminate the communist insurgency, stating that the rebel group is impeding progress and development in different parts of the country. The prospect of peace talks between the government and CPP/NPA/NDFP was discussed as early as March. The peace talks were eventually scheduled to take place in August in Oslo. But the talks were cancelled after the government refused to meet the CPP’s demand of releasing several communist guerilla leaders from prison. This year, 560 NPA rebels surrendered their arms and re-entered civil life. The Social Integration Program (SIP), which was introduced by the Arroyo government in 2008, provides rebels who surrender with livelihood assistance, immediate financial assistance and remuneration for any arms they turn in. Although not related to the communist rebels, the controversy after the November massacre of more than 50 political activists did not help foster CPP and government relations. The powerful Ampatuan clan, thought to be behind the massacre, controls much of the southern Philippines and was widely believed to have helped President Gloria Arroyo win the 2004 Presidential elections.

2008 The persecution, abduction and killing of leftist civil-society leaders, accused of organizing “fronts” for the NDFP, continued to be condemned by human-rights organizations. A UN report described the government’s traditional explanation for these disappearances and killings (that the CPP was purging itself) as completely baseless and “a cynical attempt to displace responsibility.” A group of activists known as the Tagaytay Five were released after a court found their 2006 arrest and detainment to be unlawful. In November 2008, a government taskforce released a list of 260 disappearances, indicating military responsibility in 19 cases. To date, no soldiers have been punished for involvement in abduction, disappearances or killings of civilians. A CPP statement released in early 2008 called the prospects for renewed peace talks “dim and nil.” Nonetheless, an informal meeting between the government and the CPP was held in Norway. In December 2008, the CPP rejected the government’s demand of indefinite ceasefire as a precondition for resuming formal peace talks, and no new meetings were scheduled. In late 2008, officials from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rejected a CPP call for a joint intensified campaign in Mindanao (see Mindanao conflict); the parties were said to have a “tactical alliance.”

2007 May Elections for both houses of Congress as well as provincial and local governments were generally considered free and fair, but were blemished by increased violence and accusations of vote-buying. President Gloria Arroyo’s plan to oust the New People’s Army (NPA) by 2010 got off to a slow start. Only five of 100 NPA camps were dismantled in the first half of the year. Late in the year, Arroyo attempted to revive an anti-subversion law that would punish mere membership with the NPA. The opposition argued the law would impede human rights. Accusations of political killings and kidnappings of leftist activists brought international condemnation. NPA rebels rejected an amnesty offer from the government, calling it a political ploy.

2006 In February, President Gloria Arroyo declared a one-week state of emergency after a coup attempt. Arroyo’s troubles continued with the opposition filing an impeachment complaint in June, and discussions taking place between the opposition and the CPP regarding a possible alliance. The government declared an intensified campaign against the communist insurgents, putting $19-million (U.S.) toward military and logistical efforts. The government passed a law abolishing the death penalty in June. The CPP-NPA saw the arrest of a leader, Delfin de Guzman (alias Rafael Cruz) and the surrender of a party organizer Eutequio A. Pones (alias Ka Chong Uy) and his assistant Danilo M. Semproso (alias Ka Omar).

2005 The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) refused to enter into peace talks with the Philippine government as long as the CPP/NPA remained listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. President Gloria Arroyo survived a year of political scandals involving electoral fraud and corruption as Congress dismissed impeachment calls in September. The President’s political troubles hampered the restart of peace negotiations throughout the year.

2004 Official talks between the government and the Communist rebels were “indefinitely” suspended by the rebels in August because the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) remained on the U.S. terrorist organizations list.

2003 In spite of occasional outbreaks of violence, efforts at resolving the conflict continued. The alliance between the U.S. and Philippine governments was strengthened when the latter was designated a major non-NATO ally of the United States in May. The ceasefire signed between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in July could have a negative impact on the New People’s Army (NPA)—more government forces would be available to use against the communist rebels. In November, President Gloria Arroyo declared that she would run in the May 2004 presidential election, contrary to earlier statements.

2002 The United States provided military support and training to the Philippines military in Operation Shoulder to Shoulder, which the government used to step up security measures against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and the New People’s Army (NPA), both of which were placed on the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. The national police also deployed 500 plainclothes police officers or Secret Marshals in response to the NPA’s refusal to observe the traditional Christmas truce.

2001 In April, the Philippine government and rebels met for peace talks in Oslo. The talks began on a positive note with both sides aiming for peace within 18 months. However, by June, the negotiations stalled after the rebels killed a congressman.

2000 After the suspension of peace talks in 1999, the peace process remained stalled.

1999 Peace talks between the government and rebels were suspended in May after the Senate endorsed the Visiting Forces Agreement, allowing U.S. forces to conduct joint military exercises with their Filipino counterparts.

1998 A month after newly elected President Joseph Estrada signed an August human-rights accord with communist rebels, the government postponed planned peace talks.

1997 In November ,the government suspended more than two years of peace talks with Netherlands-based National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders.

1996 Peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) remain stalled.

1995 In June, formal peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the government collapsed immediately after they started in Brussels. The government did reach a peace settlement in October with military rebels who had attempted seven coups between 1987 and 1990.

Background

Since 1969, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), have fought the national government for political control and land reform.

The NPA’s armed struggle against military forces, police and civilian militia units resulted in heavy casualties during the 1980s.

Failed 1986 peace talks with the rebels were not revived until after the government’s 1992 National Unification Commission established an amnesty and negotiation process.
In 1998, a month after newly elected President Joseph Estrada signed an August human-rights accord with communist rebels, the government postponed planned peace talks. In spite of renewed efforts in 1999 and 2001, the peace process remains stalled.

The global war on terror has impacted the conflict as Philippine government forces have received external arms, funding and training, mostly from the United States, in order to defeat the rebel fighters.

President Gloria Arroyo announced an intensified campaign against the rebels in 2007, with the goal of destroying the group by 2010.

Benigno Aquino was elected president in May 2010, and vowed to find a political settlement with the NPA. Though peace talks were initiated several times, the CPP announced at the end of 2013 that it would not enter serious negotiations with the current regime.

Arms Sources

The United States is the largest supplier of arms to the Philippines. Other suppliers between 2008 and 2013 included Germany, Italy, South Korea, Poland and Turkey.

In 2002, the United States offered a military training and support package to the Philippine government to help fight Muslim rebel groups, and the government pledged to use the support to also fight the communist insurgency. The training support was extended in 2003 and 2004 and the relationship continued. In 2012 the Armed Forces of the Philippines used U.S.-made smart bombs in their attacks against rebels, the first weapons of this kind to be supplied. In December 2013, the U.S. pledged $40-million in military aid to the Philippines to improve maritime defence capabilities and boost counterterrorism operations. (VOA, Dec 17)

Philippine security forces received shipments of small arms and light weapons from Argentina and South Korea in 2010. [Source: Small Arms Survey] In 2012, the government purchased eight Sokol (“Falcon”) light utility helicopters from Poland for US$64.4-million, which were delivered over 2012 and 2013. They also received five Bell-205 transport helicopters from Germany and 25 Humvees from the United States in 2013. [Source: SIPRI] According to the SIPRI, the Philippines has plans to acquire submarines as well. [Source: SIPRI Fact Sheet, March 2014] Defense spending rose by 16.8 per cent in 2013. In December 2012, the government allocated approximately US$1.8-billion of extra funding for military equipment purchases over 2013-18, through the Capability Upgrade Programme. (MB 2014)

The CPP/NPA is armed with weapons captured from security forces or illegally purchased from government officials. Rebels frequently attack military and security patrol bases in order to obtain arms and ammunition from these sites. Rebels also manufacture their own anti-tank mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with readily available ammonium nitrate and potassium chlorate.

The NPA has frequently engaged in extortion of political candidates, businesses and individuals as a fundraising activity. In 2012, the NPA extorted at least P25-million (more than US$5.6-million). The funds are used to buy arms and ammunition for the 4,000 member guerrilla force.

Proliferation of small arms and light weapons is a major issue in the Philippines. In 2012, there were 1.2 million registered firearms and 600,000 unlicensed firearms in the country. In June 2013 the Philippines voted to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty and signed it on September 25.

Economic Factors

The CPP/NPA/NDFP oppose foreign ownership of Philippine’s resources; mines, plantations, logging concessions, construction companies and other foreign owned business tend to be the targets for their attacks.

Gold-mining areas in Compostela have become the main funding source for the New People’s Army, according to military officials. However, rather than seizing and selling these resources, the NPA finances itself through extortion and protection rackets, dubbed “revolutionary taxation,” as well through small-scale mining and marijuana cultivation.
The government’s plans to attract $10-billion to $13-billion (U.S.) of investment by 2013 have been hampered by the ongoing conflict with the CPP, among other issues.

The Philippine economy grew by 6.8 per cent in 2012, and 7.2 per cent in 2013, the two strongest growth years since the 1950s.

map: CIA Factbook