(Photo courtesy of 2nd Infantry Jungle Fighter Division)

MANILA – Government forces seized weapons from New People's Army rebels in a clash in Occidental Mindoro early Wednesday.

In a statement, the Philippine Army's (PA) 203rd Infantry Brigade, the mother unit of the 68th Infantry Battalion, said the encounter with rebels believed to be members of the Main Regional Guerilla Unit took place at around 4:45 a.m. in Barangay Iriron in the town of Calintaan.

After a 10-minute firefight, troops recovered an M16 rifle with an attached M203 grenade launcher, a homemade shotgun, a hand grenade, a barrel for K3 squad automatic weapon, M16 rifle magazines with live rounds of ammunition and other war materiel.

Blood trails were also found at the encounter site, indicating that some of the rebels were wounded in the firefight.

203rd Infantry Brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Jose Augusto Villareal, said the clash stemmed from reports of the residents who suffer from the insurgents' extortion of food and other supplies and fear that they might be caught in the crossfire should an encounter take place in their locality.

He added that the NPA's scare tactics and forced recruitment of indigenous peoples or Mangyans in Mindoro to join their ranks are violations of the International Humanitarian Law.

Maj. Gen. Rowen Tolentino, 2nd Infantry Division commander, said they are further intensifying their focused military operations to help free communities in Southern Tagalog from the deceit and harm brought by the communist movement. 

"This is why we are encouraging the remaining rebels to heed our call for peace and avail the governments program before they become casualties of thissenseless communist ideology," he said in a statement.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The National Democratic Front was formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)