Policeman Killed as Communists Storm Philippines Banana Farm

Communist rebels attacked a banana farm associated with Dole Foods Co. Thursday and a land mine hit a security vehicle rushing to intervene, killing one and wounding three others, the military said.

Village officials and police tried to respond to the pre-dawn plantation attack in southern Makilala in North Cotabato province, but their vehicle hit a mine planted by suspected rebels, said regional military spokesman Maj. Armand Rico.

He said an official was killed and three policemen wounded.

Rico said the farm, which grows bananas exclusively for Dole, had received an extortion letter and the raid — in which equipment was torched — was probably because of its refusal to pay so-called "revolutionary taxes" to the rebels.

The Maoist insurgents, the New People's Army, have recently stepped up attacks across the Philippines, targeting police and military outposts to seize weapons and making extortion demands on mining companies and other big businesses.

Military Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano urged the guerrillas Thursday to agree to a three-year cease-fire to show sincerity toward peace talks after nearly 40 years of fighting.

The rebels quit the talks in 2004, saying the government instigated their inclusion in U.S. and European terrorist lists.

"Definitely we cannot talk peace on the negotiating table if our warriors, our fighters, are shooting each other in the front line," Yano said.

The rebels have spurned similar calls in the past, saying any truce with government troops before a peace agreement is concluded would be tantamount to surrender.

In other attacks reported Thursday, about 100 rebels attacked a mining site in Bulacan, north of Manila, killing one security guard, provincial police chief Allen Bantolo said.

In central Negros island, the military reported the rebels torched a building owned by a local mining company. There were no casualties.

Rebel spokesmen did not comment on the latest attacks, but in recent statements they have said the ongoing tactical offensives were meant to punish President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government for "despicable crimes of large-scale corruption, imperialist plunder and fascist atrocities."

Arroyo has dismissed the rebels — thought to number 5,000-7,000 — as an ideologically spent force and ordered the military to defeat them by the time her term ends in 2010.

The military deployed hundreds of soldiers and artillery early this week in the main southern region of Mindanao to combat the rebels.