• 8 soldiers wounded in NPA ambush in North Cotabato


    ZAMBOANGA CITY: New People’s Army rebels ambushed a military truck before dawn Friday and wounded 8 soldiers in North Cotabato’s Makilala town, security officials said.

    The military truck was transporting troops from the 57th Infantry Battalion when communist rebels detonated a landmine planted on the village of Luna Norte, according to Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command.

    Caber, citing a report from Lt. Col. Nilo Vinluan, the battalion commander, said the soldiers were being deployed in the town after receiving intelligence that rebel forces would strike and attack construction firms in the province.

    He said the wounded soldiers were brought to hospital in Kidapawan City also in North Cotabato.

    “Our soldiers are deployed to safeguard our people from NPAs barbaric attack and extortion in the area,” Vinluan said, adding rebels also attacked a rubber processing plant owned by Standard Rubber Development Corporation in Makilala town and killed its manager and another landmine attack in Tulunan town that killed 9 government soldiers and wounded 6 more.

    Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, accused the rebel of violating an international accord that banned the use of landmines.

    Cruz has ordered troops to inspect the trails and road network that are regularly used by the farmers and villagers to protect them from landmine explosions.

    Just recently, NPA rebels assaulted a Japanese fruit exporter Sumitomo Fruits in Valencia City in the neighboring province of Bukidnon.

    Mamerto Bagani, a spokesman for the NPA, said rebel forces raided the banana plantation and packaging facility of Sumitomo Fruits in the village of Barobo as a punitive action in retaliation for its anti-people activities and land grabbing.

    Bagani also accused the Japanese firm as anti-labor and engaging in environmentally-destructive operations of their pineapple and banana plantations. He said some P11 million worth of equipment were destroyed by rebels, although there were no casualties in the recent attack.

    Last year, rebel forces also raided SUMIFRU’s operations in the village of Bangbang in North Cotabato’s Matalam town. The rebels disarmed the guards and seized a shotgun and radio equipment before torching four trucks.

    The company did not issue any statement on the latest rebel attack, but it started its operation in the southern Philippines in 1970 – growing bananas and in 1990 it introduced Gracio brand of bananas.

    It now engages in the sourcing, production, shipment and marketing of various fresh fruits, primarily the bananas, pineapple and papaya and exports them to Japan, China, Korea, the Middle East, New Zealand and Russia.

    The NPA has been fighting for decades now trying to establish a separate state in the country. AL JACINTO



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