NPA rebels raid banana plantation in Cotabato

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/15 Sept) – Some 50 fully armed New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels raided a banana plantation in Tulunan town in North Cotabato this morning, torching company cargo trucks and other vehicles and seizing firearms of security personnel and village guards.

The rebels were led by a certain Commander Bobo Fernandez of the NPA Valentine Palamine Command whose operations include the towns of Tulunan, according to Soc Piñol, president of the Federation of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) in North Cotabato and younger brother of former Cotabato vice governor Manny Piñol.

Pinol said the rebels, clad in military uniforms, arrived at Sitio Saban, Barangay Kanebong in Tulunan around 8:30 a.m. and ordered the employees of the Andres M Soriano (AMS) Company to stay in one place.

The rebels reportedly posed as members of the Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion and later declared the area was “under their control.”

Sr. Insp. Ramel Hojilla, chief of the Tulunan police, said the rebels torched two container vans, a tractor, a Mitsubishi Canter truck, and the warehouse and packing house that contained cans and boxes of fertilizers and pesticides used by the banana plantation.

The rebels also carted away the handheld radios of the security guards, an M16 and a Carbine rifle, and eight homemade 12-gauge shotguns.

The damage was estimated at P6 million, Piñol quoted an official of the AMS as saying.

Reports said the attack was staged to humiliate the former vice governor.

Piñol, according to a letter from the NPA Valentine Palamine Command, owns at least 8,000 hectares of the plantation which were actually properties of the native B’laans and Moro folks in the area.

The Piñols denied the accusation, saying the plantation is owned by the Tulunan Agri-Ventures, Inc. and the AMS.

“Not one of the members of the Piñol family, including Vice Gov Manny, owns the lot.  There is no document linking us to that plantation,” said Piñol.

This was the second attack launched by armed men on the plantation.

The first was May last year when the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) raided the area, torched a backhoe and more than 10 houses owned by employees of the plantation. Four people were killed in that attack, tanods of Barangay Kanebong. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)