Updated: June 2015
Type of Conflict
Parties to the Conflict
Status of the Fighting
Number of Deaths
1997 In April, after a short break for peace talks, government forces resumed full hostilities against communist rebels. Rebel attacks, especially on the National Police, increased.
1996 Although there were few reported direct clashes between communist rebels and government forces, both sides carried out political and extrajudicial killings.
1995 Fighting between communist rebels and government forces declined, but human rights abuses—including killings—continued, mostly by military and paramilitary groups.
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 a 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.
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, although under the Philippine Constitution, the United States is permitted only to arm and train members of the Philippine Armed Forces.
3. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP): The CPP is led by party founder Jose Maria Sison. Its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), had an estimated 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, it is also an umbrella organization that represents the NPA and 13 smaller communist guerrilla groups in political talks.
5. Breakaway factions of the CPP/NPA: These factions include, but are 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) 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, 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 itself into an unarmed socioeconomic organization.
e. Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) signed a 1986 pact with the government, but continued to push for regional autonomy in the Cordillera mountain range.
2014 There were sporadic attacks and clashes. In March fighting between the NPA and the AFP displaced 200 families and an explosion attributed to the NPA injured 16 people. Following the arrest of two CPP/NPA leaders on March 22, NPA threatened retaliation. In April the Philippine armed forces reported gains against the NPA: a variety of firearms had been confiscated; one NPA soldier had been killed, seven arrested and 26 had surrendered. They also reported that the NPA had lost control of 15 towns. Thirty-nine miners were taken hostage by NPA forces on May 3; all had been released by May 5. Four police officers who were taken hostage by the NPA in July were released by the end of the month.
2013 Fighting between Philippine forces and the NPA was sporadic. From January to May, 51 people were killed in election-related violence. NPA raids and ambushes killed dozens. In May, seven police were killed and another seven 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, 4,000 rounds of ammunition, 191 knives and 68 grenades). More than 800,000 candidates competed for chairmanships and other posts in urban and rural villages. Approximately 6,000 of more than 42,000 villages are considered security hotspots due to electoral, Muslim separatist or communist violence.
2012 Clashes continued. 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 NPA insurgents, killing 13 and capturing a major NPA base. In September, a grenade explosion injured 48, 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, in mid-December NPA insurgents attacked a police station, killing eight officers. The NPA continued to commit financially motivated kidnappings.
2011 In September, more than 100 CCP-NPA fighters attacked a local police station, killing one policeman. In October, the NPA staged a series of attacks on mining companies, while accusing the government of prioritizing foreign investment over the rights of indigenous peoples. At least seven prisoners being held by the NPA were released on humanitarian grounds. According to Human Rights Watch, extrajudicial killings and abductions of politicians, journalists and activists continued, while the government largely failed to prosecute military personnel implicated in such killings. The day before an 18-day Christmas ceasefire was to begin, the NPA launched an attack, 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. While the military acknowledged that it could not meet this deadline, it reportedly 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 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. The ceasefire was violated twice, with both sides accusing the other of launching the offensive. During the ceasefire, 14 NPA militants surrendered and joined the government’s social integration program.
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 after failing comply with extortion demands. An NPA attack on a logging site on November 13 triggered a battle with government forces that killed 23. In late November, more than 50 political activists were massacred; this incident was not directly related to the communist insurgency.
2008 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, 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. The government declared a ceasefire, which was not honoured by the rebels. Thousands were displaced by conflict. According to the Philippine National Police, the number of NPA fighters—once estimated at more than 10,000—was reduced to 5,700 by the end of the year; 67 NPA fronts remained active.
2006 The New People’s Army (NPA) attacked private businesses, including telecommunications and mining, that refused to pay extortion money, causing more than $1-million (U.S.)in damages. Attacks and weapons raids on government, military and police targets were common, with rebels often posing as soldiers. Rebels set fire to a bus and raided a school, taking 50 children and teachers hostage. The government launched major anti-communist operations, retraining and redeploying 3,000 soldiers from the Mindanao region. The police joined 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 The government failed to reach a peace agreement with the New People’s Army (NPA). Clashes killed more than 60 people.
2003 Sporadic fighting between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces occurred. The communist rebel fighters used guerrilla-style tactics against government forces, primarily on the country’s largest islands of Luzon and Mindanao. There were reports that the NPA recruited children.
2002 The NPA called for intensified assaults over Christmas. The military pledged that U.S. military support to fight Muslim extremists would also be used against the NPA.
2001 Attacks and counterattacks by government forces and rebels were reported, even as peace negotiations were attempted.
2000 There were sporadic clashes between government forces and communist rebels.
1999 Clashes between government forces and communist rebels increased after the suspension of peace talks in May.
1998 Along with renewed peace efforts, the Philippine Army re-initiated 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 resumed full hostilities against the communist rebels in April. Rebels stepped up attacks, especially on the National Police.
1996 Although direct clashes declined, human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, continued. Most were perpetrated by the armed forces, the national police, poorly trained civilian militias and private security forces.
Total: As many as 40,000 combat-related deaths have been reported since 1969.
2014 According to International Crisis Group, 13 people—nine suspected rebels and four soldiers—were killed—a significant decline from last year.
Refugees and IDPs: The UNHCR does not provide separate cause-related counts of refugees and IDPs in the Philippines. In total, there were 729 refugees and 771 asylum seekers from the Philippines, as well as 54,831 internally displaced persons by midyear.
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 candidates and supporters in village elections were killed and 27 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, in 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 indicates that between 86 and 119 people were killed. According to International Crisis Group, 86 people died, including at least four civilians, 25 security forces personnel, and 23 insurgents. The U.S. Department of State reports that the NPA killed 58 members of security forces.
2011 Approximately 100 military personnel were killed. International Crisis Group reported at least 30 non-military deaths.
2010 According to the U.S. Department of State Human Rights Report, 263 military personnel and NPA insurgents were killed, along with an unknown number of civilians. The NPA killed 166 military personnel; the military killed 97 and the police 44 NPA insurgents.
2009 Approximately 180 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, 100 government forces and 80 civilians were killed.
2008 The U.S. State Department, citing Philippine police and military figures, reported that the New People’s Army killed 140 government forces. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines reported 173 arbitrary killings.
2007 Approximately 200 government soldiers and members of the New People’s Army were killed. More than 120 civilians and politicians were killed shortly before and during May elections. There were an estimated 62 extrajudicial killings in the first half of the year.
2006 According to the Asia Pacific Daily Report, approximately 200 people, mostly rebels and government forces, were killed in clashes and bombings.
2005 More than 100, mostly rebels and government soldiers, were killed in clashes and bombings. In June, 24 died when government troops clashed with rebels from the breakaway Revolutionary Army of the People. In October, heavy fighting between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces killed at least 60.
2004 Clashes between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) killed more than 60.
2003 According to independent media reports, at least 40 people, including both rebel and government fighters, were killed.
2002 At least 30 people, mostly rebels, were killed.
2001 According to media reports, at least 40 people–most combatants–died as a result of the conflict. In November, one of the worst clashes in a decade killed 28.
2000 At least 50 civilians and soldiers were killed.
1999 At least 15 people died in clashes and more than 100 from extrajudicial and political killings.
1998 Extrajudicial killings exceeded 200.
1997 At least 30 people were killed in 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 an additional 56 or more conflict deaths.
1994 At least 200 people were killed.
2014 The chairman and the secretary general of the CPP/NPA (Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, respectively) were arrested in March. A protest was held in July to encourage the resumption of peace talks between the CPP/NPA and the government. In December the NDFP announced its willingness to take part in peace talks, but requested the release of NDFP consultants and 500 political prisoners in advance, while expressing reservations about the government-proposed ceasefire. At the end of December it was announced that President Aquino would meet with Jose Maria Sison, NDFP’s chief political consultant, in an effort to restart peace talks. At the same time, the government refused to meet any demands as precondition to peace talks, including releasing the Tiamzons.
During the meeting of the Regional Development Council of the Davao region, the CPP/NPA was designated the next major development challenge, as they reportedly recruited support among residents in 13 per cent of the barangays (villages) in Davao. The regional government hoped to free all barangays from CPP/NPA influence, reduce CPP/NPA membership by 80 per cent, and eliminate 90 per cent of rebel violence by the end of 2016.
2013 In April, during midterm elections, the NPA extorted millions of pesos 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 Communist Party of the Philippines (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 CPP announced a 10-day ceasefire, which was later extended, and NPA fighters were ordered to help distribute food and water. The CPP criticized the government for a slow response to the disaster.
2012 The government had stated its goal to find a political resolution of all internal conflicts by 2016. Negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) suffered a major setback when the NPA launched a grenade attack against civilians. At June peace talks in Oslo, Norway, the government wanted to focus on the 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. On December 20 the government and the Communist Party/NPA announced the traditional nationwide holiday truce; both parties broke the truce before year’s end. The Revolution Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA/ABB), a splinter group of the NPA, which had signed a peace agreement in 2000, signed a closure agreement with the government this year. This action, which transformed the group into an “unarmed, socio-economic organization,” was widely celebrated.
2011 For the first time since 2004 peace talks took place between the New Democratic Front and the government in Oslo, although there was no formal ceasefire and violence on the ground persisted. Both parties were accused of gross human rights violations. The NPA executed at least two civilians convicted in its so-called People’s Court, which held ad hoc trials for crimes against the people. The CPP announced in October that leader Gregorio (Ka Roger) Rosal had died of a heart attack. Human Rights Watch reported extrajudicial killings and abductions of politicians, journalists and activists. The government generally failed to prosecute military personnel implicated in such killings, despite the existence of strong evidence.
2010 When presidential elections were held in May, 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 efforts to eradicate the New People’s Army (NPA), but acknowledged that it would not meet the June 30 deadline for full eradication set by Arroyo. In October, the Aquino 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. In December, the government announced a three-year time frame to find a political settlement. The NPA agreed to a ceasefire for the Christmas period, but 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.
2009 At the beginning of the year, the Arroyo government ordered 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 because it was impeding progress and development in different parts of the country. Peace talks between the government and CPP/NPA/NDFP were discussed as early as March and scheduled for August in Oslo. The talks were later cancelled when the government refused to meet the CPP’s demand to release several communist guerrilla leaders from prison. Five hundred and sixty NPA rebels surrendered their arms. The Social Integration Program (SIP), introduced by the Arroyo government in 2008, provided them with livelihood assistance, immediate financial assistance and remuneration for the surrendered weapons. Although not related to the communist rebels, the controversy after the November massacre of more than 50 political activists did not improve relations between the CPP and the government. The powerful Ampatuan clan, reputedly behind the massacre, controlled 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, were condemned by human rights organizations. A UN report described the government’s standard 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 unlawful. In November, a government taskforce released a list of 260 disappearances, indicating military responsibility in 19 cases. A CPP statement released early in the year 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, 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 membership in the NPA; the opposition argued that the law would impede human rights. Accusations of political killings and kidnappings of leftist activists brought international condemnation. NPA rebels rejected as a political ploy an amnesty offer from the government.
2006 In February, President Gloria Arroyo declared a one-week state of emergency after a coup attempt. In June, the opposition filed an impeachment complaint against Arroyo; discussions took place between the opposition and the CPP on a possible alliance. The government announced 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. CPP-NPA leader Delfin de Guzman (alias Rafael Cruz) was arrested and party organizer Eutequio A. Pones (alias Ka Chong Uy) and his assistant Danilo M. Semproso (alias Ka Omar) surrendered.
2005 The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) refused to engage in 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; Congress dismissed impeachment calls in September. The President’s political troubles hampered peace negotiations.
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 Efforts to resolve the conflict continued alongside outbreaks of violence. The Philippines was designated a major non-NATO ally of the United States in May. In November, President Gloria Arroyo declared that she would run in the May 2004 presidential election.
2002 The United States provided military support and training to the Philippine military in Operation Shoulder to Shoulder, which stepped 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 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. In June, the negotiations stalled after the rebels killed a congressman.
2000 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 NDFP remained stalled.
1995 In Brussels in June, formal peace talks between the NDFP and the government collapsed immediately after they started. The government did reach a peace settlement in October with military rebels who had attempted seven coups between 1987 and 1990.
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 the 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 remained stalled.
The global war on terror has impacted the conflict; Philippine government forces have received external arms, funding and training, mostly from the United States, to defeat 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 reach a political settlement with the NPA. Although 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; at the end of 2014 it expressed a willingness to resume talks.
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; the government pledged to use the support to also fight the communist insurgency. U.S. support was extended in 2003 and 2004. In 2012 the Armed Forces of the Philippines first used U.S.-made smart bombs to attack rebels. In December 2013 the United States pledged $40-million in military aid to the Philippines to improve maritime defence capabilities and boost counterterrorism operations.
Philippine security forces received shipments of small arms and light weapons from Argentina and South Korea in 2010. In 2012 the government spent $64.4-million on eight Polish Sokol (“Falcon”) light utility helicopters, which were delivered in 2012 and 2013. They also received five Bell-205 transport helicopters from Germany and 25 Humvees from the United States in 2013. According to SIPRI, the Philippines has plans to acquire submarines as well. Defence spending rose by 16.8 per cent in 2013. In December 2012 the government allocated approximately $1.8-billion of extra funding for military equipment purchases for the period 2013-18, through the Capability Upgrade Programme.
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 to obtain arms and ammunition. They also manufacture their own antitank mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The NPA has frequently engaged in extortion of political candidates, businesses and individuals. In 2012 the NPA extorted more than $5.6-million (U.S.).
Proliferation of small arms and light weapons is a major concern. In 2012 there were 1.2 million registered firearms and 600,000 unlicensed firearms in the country. In June 2013 the Philippines adopted the Arms Trade Treaty and signed it on September 25.
In April 2014 Philippines signed a new 10-year deal with the United States that permits an increased number of U.S. troops in the country, although it does not allow U.S. military bases.
The CPP/NPA/NDFP oppose foreign ownership of Philippine resources; mines, plantations, logging concessions, construction companies and other foreign owned business tend to be their targets.
Gold-mining areas in Compostela have become the main funding source for the New People’s Army, according to military officials.The NPA finances itself through extortion and protection rackets, dubbed “revolutionary taxation,” while also engaging in small-scale mining and marijuana cultivation.
The government’s plans to attract $10-billion to $13-billion (U.S.) in 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