MAKILALA, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 04 April)- — A trailer truck loaded with bananas was “intentionally burned” by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) along the national highway here Monday night.
Police reports reaching Mayor Rudy Caoagdan said unidentified armed men believed to be members of the NPA “intentionally burned” a trailer truck of the Cowboy Trucking of La Frutera, Inc. at around 7:45 p.m. Monday along Sitio Flortam, Barangay Batasan.
The burning came barely four hours after the fourth round of formal peace talks between government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) opened in The Netherlands.
“I feel bad and disappointed about these incidents knowing that our national leadership had opened the doors for peace in our country. Talks about building peace have just been reopened. I hope we could give this effort a chance for the sake of our children. I am sure all of us want peace and hopefully our generation will be able to experience it,” Mayor Caoagdan told MindaNews.
The truck was bound for Davao City from the La Frutera plantation in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.
Toto Omar, the driver of the truck, told MindaNews he was flagged down by around 10 men carrying short and long firearms on both sides of the highway.
Omar said he and his son, the truck helper, were ordered to disembark and as soon as they did, the armed men set the truck on fire and fled.
“Kalit ra kaayo” (it was so sudden), he said.
Omar narrated there were three trucks on convoy from the plantation in Datu Paglas and he was in the middle. The first truck had passed while the last truck was spared because the driver was still finishing dinner nearby.
He said they were delivering the bananas to Unifrutti in Davao City which is exporting the bananas to the Middle East, Japan and South Korea.
Ramon Macaraeg, supervisor at Cowboy Trucking, told MindaNews they estimate at least P7 million losses for the truck, the refrigerated container van filled with nearly 1,200 boxes of bananas.
He said it was the first time in the 20-year history of La Frutera that a company truck was burned.
Monday night’s truck burning was the second vehicle burning in Makilala in less than a month.
On March 13, a newly-acquired passenger bus of the Yellow Bus Lines was burned by suspected NPA guerrillas at Purok 6 in Barangay Taluntalunan at around 8:30 a.m. after asking its passengers and drivers to disembark.
The bus was on its second day of plying the Marbel-Tacurong-Davao route
Its burning came a day after Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced from Utrecht, The Netherlands that the GRP and NDP had agreed to put the peace process back on track after month-long skirmishes and that they would each restore the unilateral ceasefire they lifted in February, before the fourth round of formal peace talks.
Both sides did not declare a unilateral ceasefire. But the fourth round of formal talks opened at 10 a.m. on April 3 (4 p.m. in the Philippines) at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands to tackle the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms and discuss the forging of a bilateral ceasefire. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)