BAMBANG, Nueva Vizcaya: At least four Philippine Army soldiers were confirmed dead in an encounter between government troops and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Kasibu town on Friday.
Kasibu town police identified the fatalities as Staff Sergeant Dexter John Tagacay of Tumauini, Isabela; Corporal Jayson Sabado of Lupao, Nueva Ecija; Corporal Rusty Galan and Private First Class Abraham Lindo, all of the Philippine Army’s 84th Infantry Battalion based in Dupax del Norte town.
A belated report said that a certain Corporal Jerby Soriano was wounded and another whose identify could not be confirmed as of Saturday was brought to a nearby hospital in Kasibu.
Police said the firefight happened in the remote Sitio (sub-village) of Bilongay in Barangay Paquet, near the boundary of Sitio Maglan in Barangay Dine. It lasted from morning until noon of Friday.
It was not reported if there were casualties among the communist rebels.
Residents in the villages of Paquet and Dine were known as anti-mining advocates who managed a few years ago to stop exploration by an Australian mining firm Royalco.
There were reports of massive protests and acts of sabotage in the area against Royalco by the residents who collaborated with some members of the Bugkalot tribe and the Igorot.
An Army intelligence officer said the encounter confirms reports that the communist rebels are rebuilding their mass base in Kasibu.
Kasibu, an upland town in southern Nueva Vizcaya is a mountain area rich in copper and gold deposits. It is host to Melbourne-based mining company OceanaGold. Local small-scale miners are also active in the town particularly in Sitio Ambedbed in Barangay Paquet.
It was towards the end of the 1990s when the last report of military and communist rebels encounter took place in the area that resulted in the death of the NPA commander known as Ka Boyet.