Army steps up fight vs. Reds’ extortion in Samar

By Sarwell Meniano

January 25, 2019, 5:14 pm

<p>An Army Battalion at a camp in Hinabangan, Samar. <em>(Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army) </em></p>

An Army Battalion at a camp in Hinabangan, Samar. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army) 

TACLOBAN CITY -- The Philippine Army has stepped up its fight against the New People’s Army’s (NPA) extortion activities in the Samar provinces following a recent gun battle that stalled the rebel’s illicit activities in remote communities.

In a statement issued Thursday night, Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, chief of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said they are more committed to protect communities from extortion activities of the NPA in upland Samar and Northern Samar villages.

“The ongoing military operations against the communist NPA terrorist will be steadfast. However, foremost consideration will always be the strict observance of human rights and International Humanitarian Law and the development of conflict-affected communities,” Farnacio said.

The army official made the statement after two separate encounters with NPA fighters in Las Navas, Northern Samar and San Jorge, Samar on January 21.

The gun battle happened after soldiers responded to distress calls of residents regarding the activities of armed rebels, who were asking for food and money from civilians through force or threats.

The first encounter occurred noontime of January 21 in San Isidro village, Las Navas town where soldiers engaged 10 armed rebels.

After an hour, soldiers encountered 20 rebels in Calundan village in San Jorge town.

Rebels fled the heavily forested area, leaving behind documents and personal belongings. No one was reportedly hurt in these two clashes, according to a military report.

Calundan village is just 5 km. away from Bay-ang village where soldiers discovered the rebels’ hideout last week after a clash that slightly injured nine soldiers.

The military said rebels have been planning to launch tactical offensives in Leyte and Samar provinces, prompting them to step up their combat operations in the northern part of Samar Island, considered as an NPA stronghold in the region.

The Communist Party of the Philippines - NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union. The communist rebels have been battling government forces for 50 years. The communist rebellion in the Philippines is one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies. (PNA)