ITOGON, Benguet: Two trucks loaded with about 20 tons of copperconcentrate were flagged down and burned allegedly by members of New People’s Army (NPA) while the vehicles were on their way to San Fernando City in La Union on Thursday morning along Sitio Tapak, Ampucao town here.
Supt. Florante Cayumot, Benguet Provincial Police director, said a pursuit operation was launched by the 503rd Brigade of the Philippine Army and the Police Regional Office’ Regional Service Battalion at the mountainous Kennon Road area.
Witnesses said they saw smoke in the area that was later found out to be coming from the trucks.
Investigators said the perpetrators identified themselves as members of the Charlie Molintas Command, an NPA armed unit, while the burned trucks belonged to Philex Mining Corporation.
Authorities said the rebels installed an “NPA Checkpoint” placard along the road, with several long firearms placed beside it.
According to the trucks’ security escort, the rebels took his service firearm but none of them were harmed.
The victims immediately advised drivers of five more trucks traveling behind them to return to the mining site.
Meanwhile, Cayumot ordered all tourists climbing Mount Ulap in Tuba town, which is near the incident site, to immediate descend for their safety and avoid being caught in a crossfire as hot pursuit operation against the rebels continued.
The drivers and the security escort of the trucks refused to issue any statement as of Thursday, including the Philex Mining Corporation management.