MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 February) — About a hundred members of the New People’s Army (NPA) simultaneously attacked the main compound of Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI) in Camp Phillips, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon and the compound of Dole Philippines in Impasug-ong town Tuesday, killing a security guard and injuring three others.
Bukidnon. Gov. Alex Calingasan confirmed the report. He said the rebels launched simultaneous attacks early evening Tuesday with the DMPI compound as main target.
A report from the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in neighboring Cagayan de Oro said some 50 members of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 89 under alias Bagwis, Piton, Ambo and Arche, launched the attack in DMPI.
Lt. Col. Osias, spokesperson of the 4th ID, said the rebels on board trucks, vans and motorcycles arrived in Camp Phillips at around 6 p.m. Tuesday and immediately proceeded to the Del Monte truck parking facility and burned a tractor, truck sprayer and a truck.
Simultaneously, Calingasan said, some 30 rebels also attacked the Dole Philippines compound in La Fortuna, Impasug-ong town near the Atugan bridge, seizing two shot guns from the guards on duty.
Jorge Madlos, National Democratic Front (NDF) Mindanao spokesperson, owned the attack in an interview aired over a radio station in neighboring Cagayan de Oro Tuesday evening.
The rebels reportedly disarmed three policemen from Manolo Fortich who were on their way to respond to the incident in La Fortuna, according to a report Calingasan forwarded to MindaNews.
The report said the rebels used two forward trucks, two passenger vans, and two motorcycles to retreat to the direction of Dahilayan and nearby areas.
Hundreds of motorists and commuters were stranded along a 78-kilometer stretch of the Sayre Hiway, from Puerto in Cagayan de Oro to Kalasungay in Malaybalay City. There were reports both the NPA and police set up roadblocks along the highway. Bukidnon board member Jay Albarece said there were iron bar spikes or suyak along the road from Cagayan de Oro.
Osias identified the slain security guard as Alfredo Neri and the injured as Franklin Millanes and Jofol Jumawan of the Kadrc Security Forces and General Services—a private security agency contracted by Del Monte.
Resident physician Larson Taruq of the Camp Phillips Memorial Hospital said Neri succumbed to two gunshot wounds in his upper right torso.
Millanes had two gunshot wounds on his shoulder blades, Jumawan on the right thigh and a civilian bystander Mario Ayuban on the left thigh.
Madlos, NDF Mindanao spokesperson, said in an interview over Magnum FM CDO on Tuesday evening that the NPA launched the attacks to send a message that DMPI has to stop operations, blaming the firm for the big damage wrought by Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro in December 2011.
Madlos said “pineapple plantations in Bukidnon” worsened the impact of the storm. He said DMPI and Dole Philippines. are the same multinational corporations that allegedly abused laborers, amassed large plantation areas that could have been subjected to land reform, and damaged the environment. “This is our way to search for justice for the Sendong victims,” he said.
Madlos warned of more attacks if DMPI and other agribusiness companies do not heed their call for moratorium of expansion of plantations. “If they agree not to expand their areas, we might reconsider the attacks.”
He cited the fast expansion of the two plantations and added Sumifru, another agribusiness firm, is also on its list. He said these firms should vacate the areas so these can be subjected to land reform.
He said the NPA’s “punitive actions” appear to be the only way to stop the unabated expansion as the government is not able to stop it.
Madlos apologized to passengers who were stranded along the highway. He said the roadblocks were a “necessity” to prevent military reinforcement.
Lt. Col. Osias said the rebels on board trucks, vans and motorcycles arrived in Camp Phillips at around 6 p.m. Tuesday and immediately proceeded to the Del Monte truck parking facility and set fire three a tractor, truck sprayer and a truck.
At the same time the rebels were attacking the Del Monte facility in Camp Phillips, another group of NPA rebels also staged a checkpoint on a bridge in Impasug-ong town and in Barangay Dalwangan in Malaybalay City, he said.
The attack caused panic among residents of Camp Phillips, a small community of Del Monte workers and officials. Many of them sent frantic text messages to their relatives informing them of the attack.
Lt. Col. Rolly Dumawa, G7 officer of the Army’ 4th Division said some relatives forwarded the text messages to the military and police.
“The text messages were so sketchy. We thought we should confirm these messages first,” Dumawa said.
A police team who went to investigate got the confirmation when they found themselves being engaged by some 50 rebels at the entrance of Camp Phillips, he said.
Osias said army soldiers began pouring into Camp Phillips an hour later but by this time, the rebels had withdrawn towards Barangay Dahilayan, also in Manolo Fortich.
He said the rebels brought a barangay leader of Dahilayan and four habal-habal (motorcycle) drivers as they withdrew.
The attack was the most daring in Bukidnon province in years and the biggest since the rebels burned hundreds of trucks of Taganito Mining Corporation in Surigao del Norte on Oct. 3, 2011. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews with a report from Cong Corrales and Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)