A FIREFIGHT erupted after members of the New People's Army (NPA) attacked a military detachment in Barangay Aliwagwag, Cateel town, Davao Oriental Sunday dawn.
“The outnumbered troops fought the 40 NPA attackers who were in several positions around the patrol base for 45 minutes before repositioning to their alternate battle position,” the 10th Infantry Battalion (IB) said in a press statement.
The Army's counterattack drove off the rebels.
A soldier, who was wounded during the gunfight, was immediately brought to the hospital for treatment.
Residents in the area reportedly saw NPA rebels carrying two dead bodies and severely wounded comrades while retreating, the 10th IB said.
“The attack is a wanton disregard of the people’s safety and source of livelihood, showing once more the anti-people and anti-development character of the nuisance propaganda army of the communists,” said Major General Rafael Valencia, 10th Infantry Division (ID) commander, in a statement.
The firefight shocked a group of visitors who were waiting for the Aliwagwag Ecopark and Visitor Center to open.
In a Facebook post of a certain Ryan, who was on a break with friends, said they traveled from Davao City to Aliwagwag at dawn and intended to just rest inside their van at the parking bay to wait the morning, when around 4:30 a.m. gunfire rang out.
"Bullets wheezing above our heads and we can hear crackling sounds of the trees, probably when hit by bullets," he wrote on his Facebook status.
The bursts of automatic rifles lasted for around 30 to 45 minutes, he said.
They later saw thick black smoke billowing from above the park. The park custodian told them that it was the razed quarters of the soldiers stationed to guard the place.
Because of the NPA attack, Aliwagwag Falls has been temporarily closed for the public, 10th ID spokesperson Captain Rhyan Batchar said.
Batchar also urged vacationers and tourists to postpone plans of visiting the place.
“Naka-deploy na ta karon sa atong Community Support Teams (CSTs) sa nagkalain-laing area didto (We have deployed our CSTs in different areas where the incident occurred),” Batchar added. (With RJL/SunStar Davao)