THE latest ambush staged by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Cauayan town, which injured two foreign nationals and their Filipino driver, will surely affect the tourism industry of Negros Occidental.
This was stated Wednesday, October 4, by Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, who considered the incident as no longer an isolated case.
Lacson recalled that the province was already declared peaceful and ready for further development two years ago, but based on what is happening now, there is a resumption of hostilities not only in Negros but all over the country.
He cited the ambush in Negros Oriental last July, where six policemen of Guihulngan City Police Station, including its chief of police, and a civilian were killed.
READ: 6 cops, civilian killed in Guihulngan City ambush
“There will be a lot of public relations work needed to show to the world that Negros Occidental is still a place worth visiting,” Lacson said, adding that “it is very evident and clear that tourism is an avenue where we can further contribute to the economy especially amid the situation of the sugar industry.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the rebels ambushed personnel of Cauayan Municipal Police Station on board a patrol vehicle.
All five policemen were unhurt, but three civilians, including two tourists, Swedish Karl Christer Arvidson and Brazilian Juliana Palmero, and Filipino driver Jason Tumayao, were injured after being caught in the crossfire on the highway of Sitio Sohoton in Barangay Caliling, Cauayan town around 1 p.m.
The foreign guests were traveling to the neighboring Sipalay City.
They were treated at the Bacolod Adventist Medical Center.
Lacson said the “regrettable” incident would question the peace and order situation, which is vital in sustaining the province’s flourishing tourism industry.
He requested Major General Jon Aying, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, to brief the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan about security concerns on October 11.
Lacson said all stakeholders should work together to avoid another similar incident, as he urged “friends on the other side” to be open even just for a localized peace agreement.
“There is a call for cessation of hostilities, which is more evident now. We don’t want to it escalate into a graver incident than what happened on Tuesday,” he said, adding “let us continue to try reaching that illusive dream of a peace agreement with our friends.”
Meanwhile, the Cauayan Municipal Police Station continued to probe the ambush incident.
Chief Inspector Gary Alan Resuma, town police chief, said yesterday they are conducting an investigation to identify the perpetrators.
“We are focusing on the identification of the perpetrators for the filing of the case," he added.
Resuma said they are also conducting another investigation on the three wounded civilians.
He added that there was no tricycle driver injured.
A house was hit but it was not severely damaged, he added.
Police recovered from the ambush site fired bullets of M16 and MK47 rifles.
Resuma said armed men were no longer sighted in the area after the incident, but the clearing operation is ongoing.
Both the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office and the Philippine Army condemned the atrocity.