Military: NPA strength declines

THE strength and weapons of the New People's Army (NPA) rebels had been steadily decreasing in Zamboanga Peninsula, a top military official said.

Army's 1st Infantry Division commander Brigadier General Gerardo Barrientos attributed the decline to the ongoing "Bayanihan" peace development efforts.

Barrientos said another factor that contributed to the continued decline of NPA strength and weapons is the military's continued collaboration with local government units within the command's area of jurisdiction.

"The number of NPA members in the region and their firearms continue to decrease," Barrientos said in a statement, citing the NPA's manpower was reduced by around 10 percent while their firearms went down by five percent.

Barrientos said the troops from the Army's 53rd Infantry Battalion recently recovered two serviceable M-16 Armalite rifles and ammunition in an arms cache in the forested tri-boundary of Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Del Norte and Misamis Occidental.

He said the troops also recovered two handheld radio transceivers, two pairs of military uniforms, medical paraphernalia, personal belongings and subversive documents of high intelligence value.

Army's 53rd Infantry Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Alvin Luzon said the arms cache was discovered after residents and former rebels informed them of the place where the NPA rebels kept their stash of weapons.

"These items were left behind because the NPA lacks the manpower to bring it due to numerous surrenderees and the capture of their members," Luzon added.

Barrientos commended the troops involved in the recovery of the arms cache, citing it was brought about by the good rapport of the soldiers to the community. (Bong Garcia)
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