By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Large-scale military offensive directed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Northern Luzon Command (AFP-Nolcom) in the boundary of Ilocos and the Cordillera are meant to facilitate the entry of government-backed corporate projects in the area according to communist guerillas operating in Mountain Province.
In a statement, Leonardo Pacsi Command-New People’s Army (LPC-NPA) spokesperson Magno Udyaw said,“ito ay paghahanda para sa mabilisan at madulas na pagpasok ng mga dayuhan, dambuhala at mapanirang proyekto sa enerhiya, logging at minas (this is to prepare for the fast and smooth entry of foreign, large and destructive projects like energy, logging and mines),”
The rebel spokes identified the 14 –megawatts hydropower project of BIMAKA Renewable Energy Development Corp. (BREDCO) as of the projects they consider detrimental to the environment and the people. According to him, it will affect the water resources of 10 out of the 15 barangays of Besao.
“Kasunod ito ng serye ng panlilinlang sa pagkuhang free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) at paggamit sa mga local na naghaharing-uri para brasuhin ang kanilang mga kailian (This came after a series of deceit to get the FPIC consent and the use of the local ruling class to coerce their townmates),” Udyaw said.
He also warned of the impending entry of the Cordillera Exploration Company, Inc., a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corporation that will affect 15 municipalities in Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur. Among the towns included in the mining application are Bauko, Besao, Sabangan, Sadanga, Sagada, at Tadian.
Udyaw also accused government forces of sowing fear and intrigue in the communities and human rights violations in their conduct of military and psychological operations.
The statement came a day after the October 24 firefight between government troops and the rebels that left one soldier dead and another police wounded. Corporal Felimon Naganag of the Special Forces Regiment from Tabuk City, Kalinga, perished in the encounter. The police identified their wounded colleague as Patrolman Hebron B. Awisa of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion.
According to the 7th Infantry Division, its 702nd Infantry Brigade supervised the operation. Soldiers clashed with the rebels twice on the same day at different sites about 2 kilometers away from each other. The first battle erupted at 2:20 pm and the second at 4:00 pm. in the periphery of Barangay Suquib in Besao municipality.
Troops from Section 4 of Special Force Combat Qualification Course (SFCQC) Class 15-19, together with police personnel, were scouring the area when they encountered the rebels. Government forces believed they fought NPA fighters from Kilusang Larangang Guerilla Ampis led by Lupito Wigit alias Tangkib.
Udyaw said the battle is part of their “active defense” against the focused military operation (FMO) directed by the AFP-Nolcom. He said, “ang modang aktibong depensa ay hakbang ng LPC laban sa pambubulabog ng Oplan Kapanatagan sa Mountain Province (active defense mode is the LPC’s step to counter the disruptions brought by Oplan Kapanatagan in Mountain Province).”
The rebel leaders said there were no casualties on their side and lambasted the military for indiscriminately firing hours after they have retreated away from the encounter site.
“Habang ligtas na nakaatras ang mga pulang madirigma, ilang oras pang nagpaputok nang walang habas ang mga tropa ng [Division Reconnaissance Company] sa lugar na sakahan at pastulan ng mga mamamayan ng Besao (After the red fighters safely retreated, the troops from the Division Reconnaissance Company kept on firing for several hours in the fields and pasturelands of the people in Besao,” he added.
In a press statement, the 7th ID said that “weeks before the encounter, the 702Bde intensified its conduct of combat operations in the whole of Region 1, and in parts of the Cordillera Autonomous Region. The offensive includes the province of Abra and the municipalities of Besao and Tadian of the Mountain Province. # nordis.net