CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – As the battle against New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the hinterlands of Misamis Oriental continues, the military has unleashed a not-so-secret weapon: unmanned aerial drones.
Flying high above the skies, the drones have been providing vital intelligence to military commanders, allowing them to track and locate the elusive rebels even in the most remote and rugged terrain.
The use of drones shows how technology has transformed modern warfare and the fight against insurgency in the country. With the military’s “eyes in the sky” watching, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the rebels to evade capture.
“The technology has improved that much,” said Lieutenant Colonel Christian Uy, commander of the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion. “Even if the rebels hide in deep mountain gullies, the drones are able to spot them.”
Operating out of Lumbia air base in Cagayan de Oro City, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) acquired these state-of-the-art drones from Israel, and they have proven to be a game changer in the fight against the Maoist guerrillas.
However, the fight has had its casualties and accidents – a Hermes 900 drone crashed near a popular resort in Baungon town in Bukidnon province, near Cagayan de Oro, on May 28, 2022. No one was hurt.
Officials said the intelligence gathered from these drones has been invaluable, allowing the military to launch precise and effective operations against the NPA, crippling its strength from four platoons to just one in Misamis Oriental province alone.
“At one point, there were around 100 armed rebel fighters. Now they are down to 20 to 25 fighters and we are hunting them wherever they are,” Uy told Rappler.
The military said results are starting to show. On Tuesday, January 24, eight rebels surrendered to the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of Misamis Oriental. They said the relentless military operations were the reason for their decision to surrender.
“We survived on root crops as our food supply line from the villages was disrupted. We lost the political will and I decided to surrender and go back to my family,” said Jorinelle Remadavia, alias “Rambo,” an NPA political officer who surrendered along with seven others.
He said they slept in the mountain gullies by flinging their hammocks on trees to avoid military patrols.
Remadavia also admitted that the NPA has lost support from its mass base, and it was one of the major reasons why the rebels were losing the longest insurgency war in Southeast Asia. – Rappler.com