RECOVERED WAR MATERIEL. Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo (3rd from right), commander of the Army's 23rd Infantry Battalion, and 1Lt. Roel T. Maglalang (right), civil-military operations officer, check the seized materials for the production of anti-personnel mines and improvised explosive devices belonging to the communist New People’s Army on Tuesday (June 23, 2020). The war materiel were recovered in a hinterland village in Esperanza municipality, Agusan del Sur. (Photo courtesy of 23IB)

BUTUAN CITY – A tip-off from Agusan del Sur villagers led government troops to a depot of bomb-making materials and ammunition belonging to the communist New People’s Army (NPA), a military official said Wednesday.

The troops recovered the bomb-making materials and ammunition in the hinterland village of Maasin, Esperanza town, Agusan del Sur on Tuesday morning, said 1Lt. Roel T. Maglalang, civil-military operations officer of the Army's 23rd Infantry Battalion.

“The citizens in the area saw the danger of these bomb-making materials. Farmers going to their farms usually pass very near the depot where explosive materials are deposited,” Maglalang told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

He said upon reaching the area, government troops discovered firearms, bombs, ammunition, and subversive documents.

Among the war materiel recovered were 11 containers of ammonium nitrate, two blasting caps, 205 rounds of M-14 rifle ammunition, five magazines for M14 rifle, a roll of firing wire, NPA garments and shirts, and other pieces of evidence, Maglalang added.

The 11 containers of ammonium nitrate can produce 60 anti-personnel mines that could be deadly both to soldiers and civilians, he pointed out.

Maglalang said the recovered water materiel belonged to a sub-unit of the NPA's North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC).
Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo, 23IB commander, condemned the NPA for putting the lives of civilians in the area in danger.

“Every day, our farmers in Barangay Maasin and the nearby villages are utilizing trails near the site where these explosives are hidden by the CNTs (communist NPA terrorists). These terrorists put at risk the lives of our farmers and ordinary civilians in the area,” Paulo said. “Residents who volunteered to disclose to the Army the location of these explosives saw the big threat of these war materials.”

According to civilians in the area, he said, the landmines planted by NPA rebels have killed residents.

“The CNTs commonly plant these deadly explosives along the roads, trails, and other concealed areas where farmers and civilians utilize. These inhuman practices of the CNTs worried the civilians in Barangay Maasin and the nearby villages. The enormous danger that civilians face prompted some residents to bravely come out and (tell) the Army of these hidden explosives,” Paulo said.

He noted that the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) violates the provisions of the Ottawa Treaty, the Geneva Convention, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

"Through the cooperation of the civilian stakeholders, we can easily thwart the hostile plans of the CNTs and their recruitment strategies in the vulnerable communities. The seizure of the bomb-making materials in the hinter area of Agusan del Sur is a clear manifestation that the local residents are already tired of the hostilities made by the CNTs,” Paulo said.

He also lambasted the NPA for "instilling fear among the peace-loving citizens in the town of Esperanza in Agusan del Sur and the other provinces in (the) Caraga region."

“The continued production and use of IEDs only prove that the CNTs do not know how to value life as they keep using it regardless of their victims,” Paulo said.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)