GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 August) — A security guard was killed while five Army troopers were wounded after suspected New People Army (NPA) rebels attacked a base of a fruit company in Tampakan town in South Cotabato before midnight on Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Ronald Jess Alcudia, commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion, said Wednesday an undetermined number of rebels stormed at around 11:30 p.m. a facility owned by Global Fruits Corporation/Lapanday Diversified Products in Barangay Kipalbig in Tampakan.
He said a company security guard identified as Melchor Galamagang, who was posted at the compound’s rear gate, was gunned down by the rebels in the initial attack.
The official said their troops assigned at a nearby detachment responded and engaged the rebels in a 30-minute firefight.
“Our troops and the company’s security personnel were able to hold on and repulse the attack,” Alcudia said.
He said the attackers, who were believed to have suffered some casualties, withdrew towards the mountainous portions of the area.
The wounded soldiers, who were rushed to the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City, were identified as Private John Paul Salindog and Privates First Class John Ivan Suarte, Danny Mark Tandog, Mohamed Ali and Alfred Albanzar.
Salindog, Suarte and Tandog only sustained minor injuries and were later discharged after receiving treatment.
Ali and Albanzar were transferred to a private hospital here but Alcudia siad they were already in stable condition as of Wednesday morning.
Citing their initial investigation, the Army official said it appeared that the attackers mainly targeted the company’s facilities and an aircraft that it uses for aerial spraying.
Lapanday, which maintains banana plantations in parts of the municipality, operates a packing plant and an airstrip at the facility.
Alcudia said that prior to the attack they received reports that the company had been receiving extortion demands and threats from NPA rebels.
“As early as January, the company was already receiving threats for refusing to give in to the extortion demands,” he said.
The officials said he sent additional troops to the area to help secure the facility and check for possible planted landmines.
He advised residents to be extra careful and look out for possible explosives at the withdrawal route of the rebels. (MindaNews)