Government troops clashed with communist insurgents in the southern Filipino province of Zamboanga del Sur, army officials said Wednesday.
Officials said members of the 97th Infantry Battalion encountered New People’s Army rebels while patrolling Tuesday in the village of Balukbahan in Bayog town. The soldiers were dispatched to the area after receiving reports of the presence of rebels in the village and extorting money from civilians.
There was no report of military casualty and it was not immediately known if there were rebels killed or wounded in the fighting, but Lt. Col. Manaros Boransing, the battalion commander, said troops recovered an automatic assault rifle and an improvised explosive left behind by fleeing gunmen.
“The locals are already complaining on the exploitation and abuse of the NPA, coercing them to provide money and food to feed the armed group while we're on Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
Col. Leonel Nicolas, commander of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, said the operation against the NPA will continue. “We will continue to put pressure to this terrorist group to weaken their will to fight and force them to lay down their arms and abandon their useless armed struggle,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Generoso Ponio, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, also commended the soldiers for their “relentless dedication in ensuring the safety and security of the communities in the area of responsibility. The Tabak troopers will remain resolute in its mandate of protecting the people and securing the land against all kind of threats.”
Ponio called on the rebels to surrender peacefully and take advantage of the government’s amnesty program. “Again, I urge the remaining NPA members to return to the fold of law and avail the benefits of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-Clip,” he said.
E-Clip is a peace-building and social protection program that provides interventions and financial aid to those who surrender so they live peacefully with their family and become productive citizens of society.
The NPA has been waging a violent campaign for many decades now in an effort to put up a communist state in the country. (Zamboanga Post)