By Associated Press - Wednesday, September 20, 2017

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Philippine troops killed nine communist guerrillas in a clash in a northern province on Wednesday and a government militiaman was abducted by rebels in the latest flare-ups in the decades-long insurgency, military officials said.

Military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said the violence involving New People’s Army guerrillas would not help the possible resumption of peace talks, which have been suspended for about two months due to sporadic clashes.

President Rodrigo Duterte said recently he was open to resuming the peace talks but had to consult the military and police, along with lawmakers and the judiciary. He has suspended the talks a number of times due to continuing attacks by the guerrillas on government forces and rebel extortion of mining and agricultural companies.

Duterte’s latest change of heart came over the weekend after meeting a police officer who was freed by the guerrillas following weeks of captivity in the country’s south. “If you want to resume the talks, I am not averse to the idea, but let me sort out first the other branches of government,” Duterte said.

Duterte has demanded that a cease-fire be in place while talks are held.

The nine rebels were killed during a two-hour gunbattle that also wounded a soldier in northern Carranglan town in Nueva Ecija province, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said.

On Monday, suspected rebels abducted the militiaman while he was having dinner in his house in Occidental Mindoro province, south of Manila. Troops are searching for the militiaman, Jonathan Manlabao, and his captors, the military said.

The government is demanding that the rebels “desist from extortion, desist from killing soldiers, especially those that are not in combat operation,” Arevalo said.

The communist rebellion in the Philippines has raged for 48 years, making it one of Asia’s longest. Founded in 1968, the rural-based guerrilla group has tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with five Philippine presidents before Duterte. Battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting have weakened the group, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

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