AT LEAST eight members of the 403rd Infantry Battalion (403IB) of the Philippine Army were wounded Thursday, May 30, when communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) attacked their convoy in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, who were escorting foreign observers.
It was not clear whether any of the foreigners were hurt, but 403IB’s report said eight of the wounded persons were military personnel who were part of the team that provided security to the group.
In response, Captain Ryan Layug, 403IB Civil Military Officer said soldiers returned fire against NPA attackers, and chased the perpetrators, hitting three communist guerrillas.
Layug said foreigners from the indigenous peoples (IPs) communities in Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Malaysia came to Sitio Mintapod, Barangay Hagpa, to observe the activity of local IPs’ community volunteers belonging to Higaonon Amamag Malandang Olandok Gagaw (Hamog), a non-government organization which promotes cultural preservation in the area.
He said, the group is also supposed to have a forest visitation in the area. While passing Sitio Nasandigan in Barangay Kalabugao of the town, however, the communist rebels detonated an anti-personnel mine that targeted the convoy, the 403IB said in its report.
Colonel Edgardo de Leon, 403rd Brigade said, troops discovered two more unexploded anti-personnel minds.
De Leon said the incident deserves international condemnation.
“After the incident, the foreign delegation proceeded to Laguindingan Airport for their flight to their next destination,” the 403IB said.
“We thought a tire exploded, then we heard a burst of fire, somebody shouted duck,” the military quoted one of the foreigners. “We were afraid but we are very thankful to Filipino soldiers for providing us protection,” the unnamed foreigner added.
Col. Edgardo de Leon, 403IB commander, said government troops managed to recover two more unexploded anti-personnel mines in the area.
“These AP mines could have injured the foreign observers. The EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) and PNP SOCO (Philippine National Police Scene of the Crime Operatives) are now recovering those AP mines to avoid harming civilians passing through,” de Leon said.
He described the incident as “a direct attack to civilians who are not involved and should be protected from any form of attack.”
He added: “This incident deserves international condemnation on the CPP-NPA terrorists,” referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (with reports from PNA)