Troops neutralize NPA unit in South Cotabato

April 11, 2010 12:33 pm 

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, April 11 -– The Armed Forces of the Philippines declared initial success in its campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA) in South Cotabato and the neighboring provinces with the reported neutralization of one of the operating rebel fronts in the area.

Col. Daniel Soriano, deputy commander of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade, said they have successfully destabilized the operations of the NPA’s Front 76 as a result of their strategic counterinsurgency operations during the past several months in several upland villages in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur provinces.

He said their intensified operations were part of their earlier target to effectively neutralize the guerilla front during the first quarter of the year.

“We may not have totally eliminated them but we’re able to reduce their activities and limit their presence in some critical barangays to insignificant level,” he told the Philippines News Agency at the sidelines of an election security briefing here.

Soriano mainly credited their successful counterinsurgency campaign to the establishment of barangay defense systems or BDS in identified areas that were covered by the operations of the NPA’s Front 76.

He said they established the BDS to help counter the community-based operations and destabilize the political structure of the NPA rebels.

“The operationalization of the BDS helped prevent guerilla infiltration and eventually limited the presence of NPA rebels in the area,” Soriano said.

Aside from the establishment of the BDS, government troops led by 27th and 39th Infantry Battalions also maintained their presence in strategic portions in the municipalities of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

The hinterland tri-boundary areas of the three municipalities were part of the proposed large-scale copper and gold mining site of the foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI).

The company proposed operations, which were backed by Swiss and Australian mining firms, was earlier declared by the national government as among the priority mining projects in the country.

Since 2008, suspected NPA rebels have attacked and burned several facilities of SMI, including its base camp in Barangay Tablu.

In January last year, the rebels also raided the municipal complex of Tampakan and partially torched the town’s police station.

To complement their operations in Davao del Sur, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces, Soriano said the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion also beefed up their presence in some parts of Sarangani Province where the presence of the NPA’s Front 71 had been monitored.

He said they were targeting to neutralize Front 71’s community-based operations and political structure in the area within the next three months. (PNA) DCT/AVE

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