NPA gains strength, says Mindanao spokesperson

To date, the NPA considers their "mass base" in southern Philippines as having increased by five percent, according to Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris, spokesman for NDF Mindanao.

The communist ideology, he said, "is now embedded in the hearts and minds of the masses in at least 20 provinces in Mindanao, 200 towns and cities, and 2,000 villages".

In a press statement issued to media today, eve of the 39th anniversary of the New People's Army,  Madlos also claimed that the NPA territories or satellite bases in the South increased to 39 from 35 last year. Their firepower increased to at least 200 in 2007 after they conducted several raids against CAFGU, PNP, and Army detachments and military armory, without bloodshed.

However, the AFP said it would beat the communist-led guerrillas in 2010 even without foreign assistance.

AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro was earlier quoted as saying that the military was “even ahead of its deadline” to defeat the guerrillas by 2010.

The latest AFP estimate shows that the NPA has about 7,100 fighters, down by at least 5,000 men from its forces in 2002.

The military reported that at least 850 NPA guerrillas were either killed or captured last year, including 13 guerrilla front secretaries.  About 500 of them were reportedly killed in encounters.

But the NDF belied the military statistics, claiming that it has the equivalent of 27 battalions or about 13,500 full-time fighters with high-powered rifles, and were backed by “tens of thousands” of militias nationwide.

Also, NDF human rights chair, Fidel Agcaoili, said that the Philippine government had failed to quell the communist insurgency despite continuous US military support to the country. (MindaNews)