Army foils rebels’ plan to attack hydro-power firm

Improvised bombs and other items were recovered by military troopers after clashing with rebels at Barangay Igcabugao, Igbaras, Iloilo on Sept. 23, 2019. (Photos from the Phil. Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon 

On Dec 13, 2015, suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) attacked the facility of Century Peak Energy Corporation (CPEC).

It set to fire the hydro-power company’s heavy equipment, two dump trucks, an Isuzu Elf truck, and another 6×6 truck.

The rebels allegedly planned to repeat the attack on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 but the state troopers foiled them.

Before the rebels could even reach CPEC’s facility in Barangay Igcabugao, Igbaras, Iloilo, they encountered troops from the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry (Hunter) Battalion around 8:00 in the morning.

They were able to intercept the rebels thanks to the community who reported their presence in Igcabugao village, said Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Batara, 61st IB commander.

“We received a report of their presence and their plan to burn down the equipment of CPEC and hydro-power plant in the area,” Batara said.

He narrated that 61st IB troops were conducting pursuit operations against the group of rebels whom they encountered at Barangay Ongyod, Miagao, Iloilo on Sept. 23 when they received reliable information about the rebels’ presence.

“We immediately responded to the said report which resulted to another armed engagement with more or less 10 rebels,” he said.

Batara identified the group to be led by Melgar Besmanos alias Mar of Sibat (SYP) Platoon of the NPA’s Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay under Nahum Camariosa alias Bebong.

There was no casualty on the government side.

Recovered after the encounter were three Molotov bombs, a rifle grenade, a hand grenade, a blasting cap, two packs of ammonium nitrate, two dynamites, and a CPP-NPA t-shirt.

Meanwhile, Batara cited CPEC’s cooperation to the AFP’s campaign against insurgency by not giving in to the extortion demands of the local terrorists.

It can be noted that a woman employee of CPEC was injured after NPA members fired at a group of private company employees at Igcabugao village on August 2018.

The incident happened as five CPEC employees were on their way to their office after conducting a site survey of its hydro electric power project.

Shella Mae Estevez, 28, CPEC safety officer, was hit on her lower right leg while other employees were unscathed.

It was gathered that the soldiers escorted the CPEC employees going to their site inspection.

But the military personnel were left behind as the CPEC employees left on board a civilian vehicle.

The rebels later withdrew to a forested portion of Igcabugao village.


More clashes

The other day, the Philippine Army said it expected more encounters between government forces and NPA members.

Captain Cenon Pancito III, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, said it is to be expected, as Army troops are continually pounding on the areas where suspected rebels are sighted.

“The support we got from the people is overwhelming. It’s through the information they sent us that we were able to track down the whereabouts of these rebels,” he said.

With the populace now actively getting involved, Cenon said that they have “disturbed” the NPA’s lair and forced them to engage with the troops.

Since Sept. 20, three armed encounters happened between NPA rebels and members of the 61st Infantry Battalion.

Last Friday’s clash happened at Barangay Ongyod, Miag-ao, Iloilo.

No one was hurt from the government side and at least two from the rebels.

“They find it hard to extract their wounded comrade that’s why they initiated the harassment in Maasin town on Monday,” Pancito said.

The NPA allegedly wanted to divert the attention of the troops in Miag-ao town, the reason why they initiated the harassment at a detachment in Maasin.

The rebels apparently fired haphazardly at a distance of more than 100 meters.

Noel Manate, a CAFGU Active Auxiliary, was wounded.

He is being treated at Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital in Cabatuan town.

An hour after the Maasin encounter, the rebels and soldiers clashed anew at Ongyod village.

It left one rebel killed. The body was identified as Vincent Yoverl alias Denden, a member of Squad 1 of the NPA’s Suyak Platoon, Southern Front of the Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay (KR-P).

Even Batara attributed the successful prevention of CPP-NPA’s terror plan to the vigilance of the local populace who are consistently providing information to the Army about the whereabouts and activities of the communist-terrorist group.

“The troops will continue to safeguard the community against these terrorists and with the help of the people, together we can achieve a peaceful and developed barangays and municipalities,” Batara said.