NPA attacks intensify in Luzon

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CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The New People’s Army (NPA) stepped up attacks in parts of Luzon almost 11 months before President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally canceled the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), according to an overseas security and intelligence group.

The NPA, armed wing of the CPP, has also intensified its attacks in the Visayas and Mindanao, according to reports reaching the Inquirer.

The latest NPA attack killed a policeman and wounded 10 others in Sitio Camansi, Barangay Bolo, Maasin town, Iloilo province.

The Jose Percival Estocada Command of the NPA owned the ambush in a statement posted on Facebook on Saturday, Nov. 25.

The attack came three days after two policemen were wounded in an NPA ambush in Sibalom town, Antique province. Five months earlier, the insurgents overran Maasin’s police station and took 15 firearms.

In a report on the increased NPA activity in Luzon, the Pacific Strategies and Assessment (PSA) said the rise in rebel clashes this year took place in areas “not heavily associated with violent NPA activity.” 


Nolcom areas

The report, released on Nov. 23, identified these places as Batangas province and several towns within the areas covered by the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Central Luzon, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Ilocos.

During the Nolcom stint of its former commander, Lt. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo, that ended on Sept. 4, the NPA was blamed for the burning of equipment of Pulsar Construction Co. in Alcala, Cagayan province, on March 26, and the torching of two dump trucks of Philex Mining Corp. in Itogon, Benguet province.

Under the current Nolcom commander, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, government troops engaged rebels in eight firefights, seized three NPA camps and caused the surrender of three rebels.

Salamat has yet to reply when asked how the Nolcom would deal with Mr. Duterte’s warning that “more virulent” clashes between the AFP and the NPA would erupt now that the peace talks had been shelved.

The NPA operating in these regions could not be immediately reached for comment.


Proclamation No. 360

The President issued the warning on Nov. 24, a day after he signed Proclamation No. 360 that formally terminated peace talks with the communist rebels.

Jose Maria Sison, founder of the CPP, said there would be more rebel attacks as a result of Mr. Duterte’s decision to end the talks. 


More violent in Batangas

The PSA has advised its clients, including construction companies, to revise plans on travel security and the mitigation of “NPA extortion activities and arson attacks.”

It said the NPA was “notably more violent” in Batangas, referring to five incidents in 2016 and eight others this year, seven of which involved clashes and the torching of facilities or equipment at Pico de Loro in January.

“Rebels and left-wing organizations in Batangas are exploiting conflicts, including land disputes, between businesses and the locals in order to drum up support for their activities and organizations,” the PSA said. 


Triboundary attacks

The PSA also monitored increased NPA attacks in the triboundary of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces.

From just one violent incident each in 2016, Nueva Ecija recorded three skirmishes while Nueva Vizcaya had four recorded battles with the rebels this year.

Declared an insurgency-free province because an encounter there last happened in 2012, Quirino this year recorded seven NPA clashes.

The most recent incidents involved the killing of a caretaker of a construction company in Barangay Putlan, Carranglan town, Nueva Ecija, on Nov. 22. The NPA also attacked a police vehicle on the same day and injured two policemen, according to the Central Luzon police. 


Hundreds evacuated

Firefights in Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, on Nov. 9 left three soldiers wounded.

“Hundreds of families have been ordered to temporarily evacuate from their homes in Nueva Vizcaya at various points in the last several months,” according to the PSA.

More clashes broke out in Ilocos Sur, Abra and Mountain Province. The firefight in Tubo, Abra province, on Nov. 12 left two soldiers wounded.

The PSA considered the attack on a substation of a hydroelectric plant in Mountain Province on Oct. 10 to be the “most disruptive” in Luzon, having caused brownouts in Benguet.  –