December 18, 2017 / 6:45 AM / a year ago

Philippines says Maoist rebels attacked soldiers on typhoon relief duty

MANILA (Reuters) - Maoist rebels attacked soldiers delivering relief aid to parts of the central Philippines where a typhoon killed at least 32 people, army and disaster officials said on Monday.

Typhoon Kai-tak, which triggered landslides and floods in the deadliest storm to hit the country this year, also left 46 people missing.

Military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said two soldiers were wounded when about 50 rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of a communist movement, fired on a convoy of troops carrying relief aid on Samar island on Saturday.

The NPA has yet to comment on the accusation and it was not possible to contact the group due to power outages and disrupted communications.

The Philippines has not declared a Christmas truce with the rebels for the first time in three decades after President Rodrigo Duterte halted peace talks and this month designated the NPA a terrorist organisation.

“(The attacks) only validated the aptness of the government’s decision to terminate the peace negotiations and to discontinue the traditional Christmas truce,” Arevalo said.

The 3,000-member Maoist rebel forces have been waging a protracted guerrilla warfare for nearly 50 years in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people and stunted growth in resource-rich rural areas. The Philippines also faces Islamist insurgencies in the south.

The NPA guerrillas have been targeting mines, plantations and other businesses, demanding “revolutionary taxation” to finance arms purchases and recruitment.

Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the national disaster risk reduction and management council, called on the NPA to halt the violence.

“This is not an armed conflict,” she said, adding the rebels should let “relief work to go unhampered”.

Marasigan said emergency workers were working around the clock to restore power, clear debris and make roads and bridges passable to allow humanitarian assistance to reach about 220,000 people affected by the storm.

Duterte is expected to visit the worst-hit typhoon areas later in the day to assess the damage.

Storms regularly batter the Philippines. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed about 8,000 people and left millions homeless in the same region.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie

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