DAVAO CITY, Philippines - The daring simultaneous raids launched by New People’s Army guerrillas in Bukidnon Tuesday evening, February 19, were meant as a punitive action against plantations that the rebel army said have contributed to the deterioration of agricultural lands in the area.
Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesman of the National Democratic Front-Mindanao, said the attacks were prompted by the demands of the indigenous peoples and farmers in the province “whose ancestral lands have been seized, plundered, despoiled and poisoned by big foreign multinational corporations." The NDF is the political arm of the NPA.
“This is one way of delivering justice to the 2,000 people who died in the floods,” Madlos said, referring to recent flooding in the area.
In coordinated attacks that shocked the province, several NPA companies stormed the Del Monte motor pool garage in Manolo Fortich town, the Del Monte fertilizer warehouse and logistics office in Sumilao town, and the Dole Philippines office in Impasug-ong.
The guerrillas carted away with at least 19 high-powered firearms, cell phones, and laptops. They burned 9 units of heavy equipment, one office and two warehouses, the military said.
The attacks killed one security guard, a certain Buboy Neri, and wounded two other guards identified as Buboy Jumawan and Franklin Millanes.
Del Monte and Dole are some of the biggest multinational companies in the country. Del Monte alone owns 23,000 hectares of pineapple plantations nationwide, according to reports.
Del Monte employs 20,000 workers in 10 towns of Bukidnon.
Ltc Eugenio Osias, spokesman of the military 4th Infantry Division, said the rebels also conducted checkpoints in the towns of Manolo Fortich and Impasug-ong and scattered spikes in the major highway connecting Cagayan de Oro City and Davao City.
Initial reports showed that the rebels burned heavy equipment including trucks and a sprayer in Camp Philips, Osias said.
Sketchy reports also said that the rebels held cops at a checkpoint and seized two M16 rifles and an M14 rifle from them.
Osias said the attack was a “show of force” to send a message that the NPA is still very much around. “The attack is just to project their force. But they are hitting soft targets who cannot defend themselves,” Osias added. He noted that the rebels have no capability to attack military installations.
Osias also raised the possibility that the motive for the attacks is extortion. “They have been doing that for a long time,” Osias said.
But Madlos said: “We have been calling on the owners and operators of these plantations to reorient their businesses and stop the expansion of their plantations in Mindanao." He added that the "plantations have caused grave damage to the environment."
Del Monte lamented the attacks, saying it was "unaware of the reasons why the rebels committed such acts of violence.”
In a statement to media, the company said they have beefed up security with the help of government authorities and private sector security agencies.
The NPA is behind Asia's longest-running communist insurgency. Rebel strength has declined significantly from the late 1990s -- their peak -- but the NPA is able to maintain certain bailiwicks in Mindanao and Luzon. - Rappler.com