At least 19 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed by soldiers in a daylong encounter in Dolores, Eastern Samar, on Monday, August 16, the military said.
Colonel Ramon Zagala, military spokesperson, said the rebels were killed by members of the Joint Task Force Storm under the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division (ID) based in Catbalogan City.
Zagala said the soldiers seized at least 32 high-powered firearms from the guerrillas. The military did not suffer casualties, according to 8th ID commander Major General Pio Dionisio III.
The encounter broke out around 4 am on Monday in Barangay Osmeña, Dolores, and ended at around 5 pm, Major Reynaldo Aragones, spokesperson of the 8th ID, said.
Aragones added that prior to Monday’s encounter, they already received information that the area was a bomb making hideout of the rebels.
“Pareho-pareho din sinasabi na may bomb making hideout itong NPA dito, na nandito sila. So ‘yun, pinuntahan ng tropa, nagkaroon po ng engkwentro. Intense nga ‘yung bakbakan, ‘yung firefight, kaya nagkaroon ng tayo ng support ng indirect fires at saka air assets din po natin,” the 8th ID spokesperson said in a pool interview with reporters.
(We received information consistently, which said that the NPA had a bomb making hideout here, that they were there. So the troops went there, and an encounter broke out. The firefight was intense so we needed support from indirect fires and air assets.)
Dionisio said they carefully planned the attack and used air force F50 jets, drones, and artillery to attack the rebel camp. Dionisio explained that drones were used to determine the exact position of the rebel camp.
Aragones said on Thursday, August 19, that the bodies of the slain rebels were brought to the 52nd Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Dau in Oras. He said a local priest gave a final blessing to the cadavers, adding that they were still being identified.
According to Army, there are at least 29 villages in Eastern Samar where the guerrillas are present. At least 45 villages in the same province have so far been declared “NPA-free,” according to the army.
The entire Samar Island, comprising three provinces, is considered one of the most critical battlegrounds between communist guerillas and military troops in the Visayas. In 2019, a clash between the government troops and the rebels in Borongan town resulted in the death of at least six military personnel and one rebel.
In a two-day conference held in Catbalogan City in Samar last May, Dionisio said ending the insurgency could address the needs of far-flung areas because funds spent on counter-insurgency efforts would then be used to assist them.
“If we don’t have an insurgency problem, there would be no military [operations]. The amount being used to address the concerns of our people in the villages is small compared to the amount spent for the military because we have these NPAs,” Dionisio said.
The military is under pressure to wipe out the insurgents before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down in June 2022. He vowed to end Asia’s longest running insurgency by the end of his term. – with a report from Lance Lim/Rappler.com