Soldiers with relief goods ambushed by rebels in Northern Samar

Lou Gepuela

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Soldiers with relief goods ambushed by rebels in Northern Samar
One Philippine Army soldier dies, while 2 others are wounded, after New People's Army fighters attacked them while transporting relief goods

MANILA, Philippines – One soldier was killed while two others were wounded when communist rebels early Tuesday morning, December 22, ambushed their convoy transporting relief goods in Northern Samar.

Troops of the 20th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army were conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations after Typhoon Nona (international name: Melor) near Barangay Bukid, Las Navas, Northern Samar, when a still-unknown number of New People’s Army fighters attacked them.

The soldiers’ names will not be released until their families are notified. Military units in the immediate area conducted hot pursuit operations.

This incident follows a recent encounter in Pinabacdao, Samar, where communist rebels also attacked the truck of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) carrying relief goods for typhoon victims.

Colonel Lacurom, brigade commander of the 803rd brigade, said that the offensive by the NPA against Philippine troops would not hamper the ongoing humanitarian operations.

“Our soldiers are doing their job to help affected civilians, even sacrificing their lives. This event is a clear manifestation of terroristic acts by the New People’s Army even during calamities,” said Lacurom, in a statement released by his civil-military operations staff officer, Captain Mazo. 

“We will continue to pursue our objective, that is to help our local communities that are badly affected by the storm Nona, in support of the provincial government of Northern Samar, other government agencies, and stakeholders in the spirit of bayanihan (community),” said the colonel.

In a statement, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman condemned the attack. “This is an assault to the humanitarian efforts of the government, which came at a time that our countrymen are in dire need of immediate assistance.” 

Humanitarian response has been affected as a result of this event, with aid delivery slowing due to safety and security concerns. 

“The trucks were also supposed to carry the more than 270,000 GI sheets for distribution to families whose houses were damaged by Typhoon Nona,” explained Soliman, who is also vice chairperson for response of the NDRRMC.

“We call on the perpetrators to respect and uphold neutrality, impartiality, and independence of humanitarian workers of the government,” Soliman said.

Other government officials denounced the assault. 

“I would like to register the strongest condemnation of what had been done by the said group,” said Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Vilma Cabrera of the NDRRMC Response Cluster. 

“The National Government will not stop delivering the items required by our people,” Cabrera said when she presided over a Response Cluster meeting at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
 
Members of the Response Cluster will be wearing black ribbons starting December 22 as a sign of sympathy and protest.  

Undersecretary Alexander Pama, Civil Defense Administrator and Executive Director of the NDRRMC, echoed her statement. “It will not lessen our resolve. It just proves that they (the New People’s Army) don’t have a conscience. I hope they’re happy.” – Rappler.com

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