Officials in Manila make it sound easy. Now that Ferdinand Marcos is gone, they say, Communist-led insurgents will start coming in to surrender because they no longer have a reason to fight.
"They went to the hills because they were opposed to Mr. Marcos," Rene Saguisag, spokesman for President Corazon Aquino, said recently. "In our view, they are just Filipinos with grievances that have not been redressed."
In the countryside, the problem looks more difficult. While the popular Aquino may be able to draw some support away from the insurgents and has put them on the defensive, she has yet to show that she will be capable of alleviating the situations said to give rise to the insurgency.
In contrast to the euphoria that is still evident in Manila, here in central Luzon, the heartland of Philippine peasant insurgency, farmers who are sympathetic to the Communist Party of the Philippines and to its armed wing, the New People's Army, say that they will wait and see what Aquino does for them. They say that they do not expect much.
"I'm not against Cory, but I want to see if she will help the poor," said a 40-year-old farm worker in a group of 20 in a rice field here.
Aquino easily outpolled Marcos in last month's presidential election in the province of Pampanga, known as the "rice bowl" of the island of Luzon. But it appears that in some cases, the vote was more anti-Marcos than pro-Aquino.
In the view of some of the farmers and landless farm laborers here, it is the people of the cities -- Manila, in particular -- who put Aquino into power. The farmers say they find it hard to believe that the new president, whose family owns large tracts of sugar land only a short distance north of Pampanga, is going to propose much in the way of land reform.
But for many farmers here, land reform is the number one issue.
Aquino said little about this during her election campaign, and there is no evidence that her new administration has focused on the problem in its first two weeks in power, as it has concentrated on trying to consolidate its control.
The Communists, meanwhile, spend much time talking to farmers about land reform. It does not take a visitor long to discover that the party, and the guerrillas, have many sympathizers here.
America's two largest overseas military facilities, Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, are in central Luzon, and support for the Communists appears strong in the vicinity of both. The men harvesting rice near San Luis were working less than 15 miles from Clark.
About 70 percent of the Philippines' 55 million inhabitants live in rural areas, and every new administration here has talked at first as though it would rise or fall based on its performance in the countryside. The Aquino administration is no exception.
Luzon, the largest and most heavily populated of the Philippine islands, had a land-reform program under Marcos, but it was restricted to rice and corn land, excluding the more lucrative sugar and coconut land. Furthermore, that government was accused of failing to provide enough credit and extension services to make the program succeed. Many farmers whom the program was supposed to help ended up with mortgages they have been unable to pay.
Central Luzon is not the scene of major armed clashes. Its flat rice and sugar fields offer little cover for guerrillas. But it is a major recruiting ground for the insurgency, and, given the popular support that exists in the region for their movement, Communist leaders can meet and rest here with a feeling of security.
According to a senior Philippine military officer, the Communists' leader, Rodolfo Salas, alias Commander Bilog, comes from the region and moves frequently through it.
One bad sign for the government is that the Communists have increased their attacks on individual government officials and informers in Pampanga. An independent observer estimated that Communist gunmen have assassinated more than 50 opponents during the past year. One of the most daring assassinations was the shooting last year of an Army lieutenant colonel at a church in Angeles, where he was acting as sponsor for a wedding. In the town of Arayat, three of the last six mayors have been assassinated.
In Manila, however, some of the best educated of the Philippine elite appear to be almost unaware of all this. They argue that the Communists are isolated bandits led by a small number of ideologues incapable of centralized coordination.
The evidence in central Luzon is to the contrary, and while Aquino's victory over Marcos may attract some sympathizers away from the Communists, some analysts predict that there are not likely to be many defections of hard-core leaders.
People in this region have been revolting against the central authorities for decades. The first tenant-landlord battles erupted in the 1920s. Peasant unrest in the 1930s developed into the Huk rebellion of the 1940s and early 1950s.
One-time Huk leader Luis Taruc, now a legislator, was born here in San Luis, a town 50 miles north of Manila that now has a prosperous look. High-yield rice produces two crops a year. Some of the farmers' houses are of concrete blocks instead of thatch, and while a few water buffaloes are still used, many of the farmers use hand-held tractors.
But the farmers complain that prices for land rent, fertilizer, electricity, irrigation and food are too high, and they say the same of bank interest rates. The high-yield rice has required increased use of fertilizers and pesticides.
Miguel Caliwag, president of the central Luzon Farmers Alliance, said his group will present demands for land reform to Aquino this week. The alliance says it has 35,000 members in eight Luzon provinces.
"We don't know if Cory will participate in land reform," Caliwag said in an interview. "I have heard that she herself has a big hacienda."
Caliwag lives with his wife and 10 children in a two-story concrete block and wood house with a corrugated iron roof and concrete floor. His best educated son has a university degree in mechanical engineering, but cannot find a job.
Caliwag's organization called for a boycott of last month's presidential election, arguing that both candidates were disregarding the farmers. Caliwag said "mass action" was the only way to extract concessions from landlords.
Army Col. Lorenzo Mateo, the new commander of the military region that includes San Luis, said that Caliwag's organization is not communist but that it has been inflitrated by Communists.
Caliwag said that a military man once called him in and accused him of being a New People's Army organizer. He said he responded that he was an organizer of farmers, not guerrillas.
Caliwag, who farms five acres of rice land for two landlords, accused people in Manila of ignoring the plight of the farmers.
"They know that their food prices are going up, but so are our food prices, and we are the producers," he said.
"We are not against Cory," Caliwag said. "She's not a dictator, . . . but the view of the people in Manila and the view of the people in the province are not the same."