MAGPET, North Cotabato: The military here has deployed more troops and bomb sniffing dogs in remote villages here following a land mine attack by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas that left two soldiers wounded Wednesday noon.
Captain Manuel Gatus, speaking for the 57th Infantry Battalion, said the soldiers were part of an Army contingent conducting peace and development operation program (PDOP) in Magpet interior villages.
While on environmental patrol, part of the PDOP activities, one of the two soldiers stepped on a land mine that went off in Sitio Natutungank, Barangay Bagumbayan, Magpet, North Cotabato.
Gatus refused to identify the soldiers but assured they are now in safe condition.
Additional troops backed by bomb sniffing dogs have already arrived and conducting clearing operations to prevent similar incident as the Army push for peace and development programs.
Barangay Bagumbayan is one of the NPA infiltrated villages of Magpet.
Gatus said the the 57th IB strongly condemned the use of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) because it was a violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) which the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) was a signatory.
“We fear for the safety of civilians in the communities, they may be the next victim if the rebels planted several land mines in the area,” Gatus said in a statement.
At least 17 villages in Magpet has military presence due to Peace and Development Operation Program (PDOP) which aims to bring peace and order as well as implementation of development projects in the area.
Military PDOP is also being implemented in the towns of Tulunan, Makilala and Arakan Valley complex, all in North Cotabato and within the area of coverage of the 57th IB.
The presence of soldiers in the villages has been opposed violently by communist guerrillas and other militant groups.
Before the land mine attack, the NPAs fired rifle grenade at soldiers in one of the villages where PDOP was at work.
Last month, the NPA detonated road side IED that left three policemen injured.
A payloader of a construction company in Magpet was also torched by the NPAs in early October for refusing of its owner to shell out “revolutionary tax.”
Despite the atrocities, Colonel Danilo Vinluan, 57th IB chief, said the program will continue “because at the end of the day its the people who will benefit the projects, including the rebels who reside in the area.”
Vinluan appealed to the residents to support the program because the government is doing it for them.
“We should welcome development, we should support this program because this is pro-people, pro-poor and for the future of your children,” Vinluan said. PNA