Manila: Ships used in transporting mineral ore are being used to smuggle into the country weapons used by communist rebels a report said.

According to a report published by the Philippines-based Security Matters Magazine, the communist insurgent New Peoples Army (NPA) have received large quantities of AK-47 type assault rifles from abroad.

“Reports indicate that NPA fighters in Northern and Southern Mindanao are now armed with AK-47 rifles,” the publication said in its latest issue.

Originally manufactured in Russia and former Soviet bloc countries, variants of the weapons were produced in Asia by China, Vietnam and Cambodia. In comparison, Philippine armed forces standard issue long firearms are largely US made or manufactured locally under licence from foreign principals.

According to the Security Matters report, the AK-47s, or its copies, have clandestinely been offloaded by foreign ships loading ore from the mines in southern Philippines’ Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. Some of the firearms have ended up in the hands of rebels in Davao Region and Bukidnon province.

For years, the NPA had made do with sourcing its firearms locally.

Concerns about the large numbers of smuggled AK-47s entering the country resulted from military reports said a number of these type of weapons have been seized from rebels following recent encounters in Mindanao.

Previously, the rebels have been able to obtain weapons by raiding government armouries or through the local weapons black market.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III said that an investigation is being carried out as to how these weapons ended up in the hands of the NPAs.

Some of the AK-47s are reportedly “new” and have defaced serial numbers leaving authorities with very little clues as to its country of origin.

Although there are a number of AK-47s in the country, particularly in Mindanao, most of them are in the hands of combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Most of these rebel weapons, which date back to the 1970s during the Moro conflict, are already unserviceable.

According to the military, the communist rebels are limiting the use of the AK-47 due to lack of ammunition. Unlike its American or Western-manufactured counterparts, the AK-47 round is difficult to come by in the Philippines.

Some of the more modern versions of the AK-47s have also ended up in the hands of certain government officials. The bodyguard of Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas was caught possessing one following a traffic incident in 2011.

Llamas, who was out of the country when the incident took place in October 7, 2011, reasoned that the weapon was licenced and that he needed it for protection.