DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 January) – Businesses in four regions of Mindanao lost P2.48 billion to attacks and extortion activities by the New People’s Army (NPA) last year, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) commander Lt. General Benjamin R. Madrigal said on Tuesday.
Madrigal told reporters at the sidelines of the Mindanao Business Briefing at Seda Hotel here that the NPA got P1.48 billion from mining and agricultural companies in Eastern Mindanao, covering Regions 11 and 13 and parts of Regions 10 and 12.
He said that with P1.48 billion the NPA could buy 23,333 AK47 rifles or 31.1 million rounds of ammunition.
For the same period, rebel attacks caused P1 billion in damages to businesses the bulk of which was sustained by the box plant of the Lorenzo family-owned Lapanday Foods Corporation in Mandug, Davao City which the NPA burned on 29 April 2017, he said.
Madrigal urged businesses to stop giving in to the demand for so-called revolutionary taxes of the NPA, saying it would only worsen the insurgency.
“They (NPA) will continue to ask if some will continue to provide also,” he said.
He stressed that they intend to prevent the recruitment of new NPA members by deploying more security forces in communities where there are reported extortion activities.
Madrigal added that they will hold regular meetings with companies to explain to them the consequences of paying “revolutionary taxes” and to inform them how and where to report if NPA members would harass them.
He assured they would strengthen military presence in conflict-affected and resources-rich areas to put a dent on extortion activities.
The military has beefed up security measures in Mindanao since the May 23 declaration of martial law in the island by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in response to the attack launched by Islamic State-inspired militants in Marawi City.
Martial law is still in effect in Mindanao after Congress approved Duterte’s request for another extension, from January to December this year, citing as basis the communist insurgency.
Madrigal, who assumed as head of Eastmincom on November 13, 2017, said they have come up with measures to reduce or eliminate extortion and burning incidents.
He said the measures include the deployment of new members of the Specialized CAFGU Active Auxiliary in conflict-affected and resource-rich areas.
He said they will step up security in Davao Region by deploying 25 CAFGU companies. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)