TACLOBAN CITY – Two leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA) and a soldier died in a clash in the upland village of Lawgawan in Bontoc, Southern Leyte on Wednesday.
The Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade reported that the hour-long clash occurred around 11:30 a.m. when soldiers encountered a band of 11 rebels belonging to the remnants of NPA’s Island Committee Levox, Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.
“We have been receiving reports that the two killed rebels are known commanders of the remaining NPA fighters in Leyte Island. We are currently in talks with their families and former rebels to gather more information,” said Capt. Kaharudin Cadil, Philippine Army 802nd Infantry Brigade spokesperson, in a phone interview on Thursday.
With bloodstains found in the encounter site, Cadil said they suspect the enemy suffered heavy casualties aside from the two confirmed fatalities.
The official refused to name the slain soldier pending notification of his family. Another soldier is being treated for sustaining minor wounds after the clash.
During clearing operation, soldiers of the 14th Infantry Battalion recovered an M16 rifle, three backpacks, 10 tents, and personal belongings.
The rebels were hiding in the jungles of Bontoc as government forces intensified their combat operations.
The military managed to locate the small NPA lair based on tips from villagers.
The area is about 16 kilometers upland from Bontoc town center.
The encounter site in the upland area of Bontoc is near the boundary of Hilongos, Leyte where NPA remnants were frequently sighted by locals.
These areas were identified as one of the infiltrated areas of the terror group in Leyte with locals forced to provide support to its armed struggle.
Last May 26, 2021, six NPA spies and 19 staunch supporters yielded to village officials in Hilongos town. The withdrawal of support forced the NPA remnants to move to the mountains of Southern Leyte, according to Cadil.
Brig. Gen. Zosimo Oliveros, commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade, ordered the deployment of additional soldiers including a reinforcement to hunt down the fleeing members of the armed group.
"In the name of Executive Order No. 70 which aims to attain lasting peace and inclusive development in the country through the whole-of-government, whole-of-nation approach, we always encourage and welcome the support of local officials and the citizens in ending the local communist armed conflict," Brig. Gen. Oliveros said in a statement.
EO 70, which was signed by President R. Duterte in December 2018, created the National Task Force to End Local Communist (NTF ELCAC) that institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach in fighting the five-decade armed struggle of NPA.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)