EASTERN Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) commander Aurelio Baladad directed the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division on Friday to address the current security concerns in a road project in Surallah town in South Cotabato province.
Baladad's order came after an engineer was killed and three others were wounded Thursday when an improvised explosive device (IED) allegedly planted by the rebels exploded at Sitio Lamsuguing in Barangay Upper Sepaka in Surallah at 7:30 a.m.
10th Infantry Division commander Major General Eduardo Año was directed to closely collaborate with the provincial police and officials, and concerned security officers of the firms doing government projects to look after their security.
"Combatants should be distinguished from the non-combatants. Civilians and civilian properties should not be object of attack by the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People's Army (CPP-NPA)," Baladad, in his statement, said.
Baladad, Eastmincom public information officer Captain Alberto Caber said, was saddened on the death of the engineer who has nothing to do with the insurgency. He added that its unit condemns such attack of the rebels against civilian.
The fatality was identified as one Engineer Junesis Miro of the GEMMA Construction Company, while the wounded were Cafgu Active Auxiliary (Caa) Renato Catanos, Caa Joepermar Catapang, and a Barangay Sepaka watcher Tirso Cordero.
"Engineer Miro was onboard the bulldozer. He was working while the Cafgu personnel with a barangay watcher were providing security to farm-to-market road project, connecting Surallah and Lake Sebu, when the IED blew up," Caber said.
Caber added that heavy gun fires followed the blast. It was reported that Cordero is now in critical condition following the several wounds he sustained from the incident.
He said soldiers of the 27th Infantry Battalion headed by Lt. Colonel Jess Alcudia already launched a pursuit operation until now together with the South Cotabato provincial police, against the communist rebels responsible of the attack.
Alcudia, Caber said, is also verifying the reports of the barangay officials nearby that there are two unidentified rebels killed in the firefight.
Most of the development projects have been targeted by the NPA rebels due to its refusal to pay extortion demands, Alcudia said, adding that the contractors revealed that the extorted amount shall be 3 percent of the full project cost.
The military believe that the intention of the rebels is to derail the road construction, as the completion of the project will facilitate the delivery of the government services.
Caber said the continuous manufacture and used of these IEDs are gross violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl).