ANOTHER round of torching heavy equipment allegedly perpetrated by the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels was reported Saturday.
The military tagged the Maoist guerillas as responsible for the torching of two bulldozers owned by Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI) and a boom sprayer owned by Lapanday Pineapple Plantation Company; including a separate attack which targeted the spray truck of Dole Philippines Inc. in Malaybalay City on Saturday dawn, January 30.
The incident came days after NPA rebels from Agusan provinces also burned DMPI heavy equipment worth P15 million in Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental on January 26.
The military said NPA rebels from Guerilla Front–6, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee fired at a mega spray truck of Dole Philippines at Sitio Upper Gabunan, in Barangay Casisang, Malaybalay City.
On the same day, two units of bulldozers owned by DMPI were burned by a separate group of NPA rebels at Field 97, Zone 6, Barangay Impalambong in Malaybalay City. A boom sprayer owned by Lapanday was also burned at Sitio Hagwaon, Barangay Laguitas, Malaybalay City.
The military accused the NPA for extortion with the series of torching happening in a span of days within Northern Mindanao.
"These bandits had long been attempting to extort money in a form of their so-called ‘revolutionary tax’ from these multinational companies to generate funds for the armed group. However, the said companies have consistently refused to give in to the NPA’s demands," the military said in a statement.
Immediately after the incident, troops from 4ID’s 403rd Infantry Brigade based in Malaybalay City with its police were dispatched to the sites where the torching happened.
Troops from the 1st Special Forces Battalion based in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon are now conducting pursuit operations against the rebels.
"Coordination are now made with the companies to file criminal charges against the perpetrators," the Army said.
Colonel Jesse Alvarez, commander of 403rd Brigade, said the recent incidents are a clear proof that the NPA now “resorts to banditry and no longer fighting for ideology.”
"We are now tracking down these criminals and will ensure that they will face the crimes they have committed with the help of the peace-loving people of Bukidnon," Alvarez assured.
He said these criminal acts caused by the NPA are means to force the owners and the management of these companies to pay the “revolutionary tax.”
Alvarez added that it is possible the NPA is collecting this tax to generate campaign funds for the CPP/NPA/NDF allied partylists and personalities who are seeking posts in this 2016 elections.
Alvarez is appealing for the people’s support by “not allowing the NPA and other threat groups to compromise the future generation.”
With these latest attacks against agri-based companies, Alvarez cited there were attempts by the NPA against other targeted companies but the army pre-empted these attempts such as the attempted arson of Mindanao Agri-Trader Incorporated in Barangay Soriano, Cabadbaran City that resulted to the arrest of suspect Jephte Cangke Butal by the troops under the 29th Infantry Battalion in Caraga region.