ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist insurgents torched a provincial bus in a daring attack on Monday in southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said five gunmen, who were among four dozen passengers, stopped the bus in the village of Bagong Silang in North Cotabato’s Makilala town and introduced themselves as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and ordered everyone out of the vehicle.
As soon as everybody stepped out of the bus, the gunmen quickly set the vehicle on fire as horrified passengers looked on.
The rebels told them they would not be hurt and then fled on foot.
Officials said the bus is one of many fleets owned and operated by the Yellow Bus Incorporated, one of the largest commuter companies in the restive region where the NPA is actively waging a secessionist war for many decades now.
Company executives did not give any statement but it was not the first time that the rebels carried out such attack on provincial buses in Mindanao with the military and police both saying that extortion was likely motive for the arson.
The attack occurred just a day after Jesus Dureza, the chief government peace negotiator, announced that Manila is resuming stalled peace talks with rebels and that a truce had been agreed upon by both sides over the weekend.
Dureza said the negotiations may start as early as next month after both sides finally agreed to restart the peace talks after President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the negotiations in February.
The negotiations were scrapped after a series of deadly attacks by rebels who abandoned their own truce over the government’s rejection of their demand to free more than 400 rebels languishing in jails across the country.
Duterte wanted the rebels to agree on a bilateral ceasefire before releasing the prisoners although he had freed about two dozen communist leaders so they can join the peace talks.