BAMBANG, Nueva Vizcaya – At least four people were killed in an encounter between government troops and the communist New People’s Army (NPA), which took place in a town here before noon on Friday, police said.
The fatalities were identified 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 from the 84th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Dupax del Norte town of the 7th Infantry Division.
A belated report said that a certain Corporal Jerby Soriano was wounded and another whose identify could not be confirmed was rushed to a nearby hospital in Kasibu town.
Police said the clash took place in the remote Sitio (sub-village) of Bilongay in Barangay (Village) Paquet, near the boundary of Sitio Maglan in Barangay Dine. The firefight lasted noontime.
Many residents of Paquet and Dine Villages were known as anti-mining advocates who stopped the exploration of an Australian mining firm called Royalco a few years ago.
There were reports of massive protest and sabotage in the area against Royalco by residents who collaborated with some members of the of the Bugkalot and Igorot tribes.
An army intelligence officer said the encounter confirmed reports that the communist rebels were rebuilding their mass base in Kasibu.
Kasibu, an upland town in southern Nueva Vizcaya, is a copper and gold rich mountain area and host to a 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 encounter between the military and communist rebels was reported resulting in the death of an NPA commander known as “Ka Boyet”.