Anti-insurgency drive to focus on Compostela, Davao Sur

Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 04:06pm (Mla time) 07/26/2008

DAVAO CITY, Davao Del Sur — The government’s anti-insurgency campaign in Southern Mindanao has been directed to Compostela Valley and Davao Del Sur because these provinces have become a “priority area,” according to a military commander in the region.

Major General Jogy Fojas, commander of the 10th Infantry Division based here, said on Saturday that military operations have been intensified, especially in Compostela Valley, because it is there where the “degree of insurgency is very, very active, well developed, and well organized.”

Fojas said more troops from Luzon and the Visayas have already arrived to augment troops in Compostela Valley and in Davao Del Sur.

“Along with the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion and 3rd Field Artillery Battalion are 24 armored vehicles and 12 howitzer tubes,” he said.

Fojas made the announcement in the wake of attacks by the communist New People’s Army in the region and in nearby areas.

On Thursday, a village official was killed while three police officers were wounded in a landmine explosion after communist rebels attacked a banana plantation in the village of Luna Norte in Makilala, North Cotabato.

The attack occurred as Armed Forces chief General Alexander Yano proposed an indefinite ceasefire with the rebels to re-start the stalled peace talks.

Major Armand Rico, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, told the Inquirer by phone that about 15 rebels swooped down on the plantation of Dole-Stanfilco around 5:50 a.m. Thursday.

Rico said the rebels overpowered the guards at the plantation before burning the palletizing equipment.

“Shortly after the attack, a team of pursuing law enforcers on board a multi-cab (hit)… a landmine along the road, killing barangay (village) councilor Ricky Apolinario and wounding three other policemen,” he said.

Rico said the landmine explosion was aimed at discouraging troops from pursing the rebels.

North Cotabato Governor Jesus Sacdalan said despite the incident, soldiers went to pursue the fleeing rebels.

Rico said the rebels attacked Dole-Stanfilco because of the company’s refusal to give in to the rebels’ extortion demands.

Fojas said the concentration of troops in Compostela Valley and Davao Del Sur was the response of the military hierarchy “to the clamor from our local government executives.”

“(They wanted) more troops with the continued atrocities perpetrated by these communist New People’s Army turned criminals and bandits against our business and investment communities,” Fojas said.

The NPA, however, said the military was “patently wrong in its assumption that massive troop and artillery deployment would spell the difference in their fight against the revolutionary movement.”

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command, said that the beefing up of government troops showcased the government’s “shock and awe method.”

“The intent is quite clear: Use an overwhelming force against the NPA and instill fear in the minds of the revolutionary mass base. But is this overwhelming force effective? A display of superior armament and troop strength by the AFP is inconsequential to the New People’s Army,” Sanchez said.

He said while tanks and artillery remained important weapons in conventional warfare, “they hardly play a significant role against a mass-based army waging guerrilla warfare.”

“For one, the NPA at the current stage of the people’s war is basically a mobile politico-military army. Thus, the AFP has no fixed military target to attack,” he said.

The government has said it will crush the insurgency by 2010.

Malacañang recently approved the release of P1 billion to the military to beef up its capability against the rebels, who have been waging a guerrilla war to establish a Maoist government in Asia’s oldest democracy.

The communists backed out of the Norwegian-brokered peace talks after it failed to convince the government to lobby for its removal from Washington and the European Union’s list of terror organizations.

Reports from Jeffrey M. Tupas, Jeoffrey Maitem, Dennis Santos, Edwin Fernandez, Eldie Aguirre and Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao

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