The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is quickly reducing the strength of the country's left-wing rebels New People's Army (NPA), local media reported on Wednesday.
"The government troops can reduce the strength of the New People's Army at an 'inconsequential' level by 2009, or a year ahead of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's set deadline to defeat the insurgents," Philippine TV network GMA News reported, citing AFP chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.
Esperon said that the strength of the left-wing movement, which has been waging an armed struggle for nearly four decades, has been on the steady decline for the past several years.
For the past 11 months alone, the military reduced the number of NPA guerrillas by at least 1,344 to about 6,061 men, said the general.
Earlier this year, Esperon reported that the AFP has been reducing the communist strength by an average of 1,000 a year.
The insurgents would only be around 3,000 by 2009, Esperon said, adding "this number renders them inconsequential and definitely cannot topple the government nor have the leverage to exact demands at the negotiating table."
Philippine president Arroyo directed the military and police to end the insurgency problem before her term ends in 2010.