Defense chief downplays NPA attacks in south

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 12:25:00 07/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro played down the attacks of communist rebels on mines and communication facilities in the south, saying these are not signs of their growing strength.

Over the past weeks, the New People’s Army (NPA) has burned mining equipment and attacked telecommunication towers in Central and Southern Mindanao, in an attempt to extort “revolutionary tax” from businessmen.

“The area is really conducive for NPA activity because there are a lot of potential profit-making activities in the area. [It is] very easy to extort from miners,” Teodoro told reporters in Camp Crame.

Asked if the attacks showed that the rebels were gaining ground, Teodoro said: “Hindi naman [not really]. They are concentrating in one area because they are being cleared from other areas. They are concentrated there, and they want to create, perhaps, their last stand there.”

Teodoro acknowledged that it was “difficult” to secure businesses in far-flung areas, especially cell sites, so it is important for the military, the police and local government units to “fuse” their security efforts.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, General Alexander Yano, “has called the attention” of military commanders over the attacks, Teodoro said.

“Not to intensify offensives, but to intensify attention to the problem. If offensives are necessary, then it should be done,” he said.

On Sunday, a Mechanized Infantry Battalion composed of roughly 500 troops with two dozen tanks, and two 100-man Field Artillery batteries armed with grenade launchers were deployed to the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) area to thwart the NPA attacks.

The reinforcements were stationed at 1001st Brigade headquarters in Compostela Valley province.

But on Thursday morning, the rebels struck again and burned equipment at a facility of Dole Philippines in Makilala town, North Cotabato province.

On the same day that the reinforcements arrived, the rebels torched a drilling machine of the Sagittarius Mine in Davao del Sur province.(PDI)

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