LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 6 (PNA) - - Two soldiers were wounded in a clash between New People’s Army rebels and government troopers in Casiguran, Sorsogon at dawn on Monday, the first encounter between the two groups since President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said a top official of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Gil Perez, SOLCOM spokesman, said the wounded soldiers, identified as Cpl. Jerome T. Tu and Pfc. Mart Maximo M. Odsinada of the 31st Infantry Battalion, were on patrol in Sitio Kabungahan, Barangay Trece Martirez, Casiguran when they encountered around 15 local NPA guerrillas at 6:30 a.m.
He said it was the first firefight in the Bicol region after the CPP terminated its unilateral ceasefire with the government a few days ago.
Perez said the firefight lasted for more than 10 minutes before the NPA rebels fled towards the remote villages in Casiguran town. The wounded soldiers were brought to Sorsogon Doctors Hospital for medical treatment.
President Duterte terminated the government’s ceasefire with the CPP-NPA on February 3 after the NPA announced its own lifting of its unilateral ceasefire with the government on Feb. 1.
According to the CPP-NPA the President failed to release all political prisoners and pull out government troops in communities in the countryside.
Lt. Gen. Ferdinand F Quidilla, SOLCOM commander, in a statement, said Sorsogon and Masbate in Bicol region and Quezon province in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) region are the priority areas of the military.
During the first Regional Peace and Order Council meeting, which was presided by Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi City early in January, Maj. Gen. Manolito Orense, commanding general of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, said that insurgency has remained a potent threat to national and local security.
He alleged that “many government officials are sleeping or supporting the NPA” and stressed that local government units have a big responsibility to address insurgency.
Orense said there are 217 NPA combatants in Bicol where some 312 barangays are affected by insurgency.
“The provinces of Sorsogon, Camarines Sur and Masbate have the highest number of atrocities committed by the rebels in 2016,” he alleged, citing a military report.
Quidilla said AFP troops will continue to conduct tactical operations within the bounds of its rules of engagement and will respect human rights and the rule of law at all times.
He assured the people in the Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions that the military will continue to heed the clamor for peaceful means to resolve the over 40 years of conflict with the CPP-NPA.
Quidilla said the AFP will continue to implement the government’s development programs as well as the campaign to support the law enforcement operations of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and PNP. (PNA) LAP/GVR/RBB/CBD/SGP