Rebels attack soldiers in Aliwagwag Falls; 1 soldier injured, 2 rebels slain

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 April) — Around 40 suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) attacked a group of soldiers deployed at the popular tourist spot Aliwagwag Falls Eco Park in Cateel, Davao Oriental at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, leaving one soldier hurt and two rebels dead, the military said.

In a press release, Rhyan Batchar, chief of the Division Public Affairs Office of the 10th Infantry Division, said gunfight between soldiers belonging to the 67th Infantry Battalion  and rebel forces lasted for about 45 minutes. An M-14 rifle was left behind by the rebels, he said.

The NPA has not issued a statement on the alleged attack as of 5 p.m. Sunday.

Tourists cross the monkey bridge for fun and adventure at the Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel, Davao Oriental. The trees surrounding the falls have recovered from the devastation wrought by super typhoon Pablo in December 2012. The area has been developed and is now a favorite tourist destination. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO taken in February 2016

The military did not disclose the identity of the injured soldier, pending notification of his family.

Police and military checkpoints were established while pursuit operations were launched against the rebels.

“This attack is a wanton disregard of the people’s safety and source of livelihood, showing once more the anti-people and anti-development character of the nuisance propaganda army (NPA) of the communists,” the press release quoted Major General Rafael Valencia, 10ID commander, as saying.

During the fourth round of peace talks in the Netherlands on April 3 to 7, the government (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) signed an agreement on an interim joint ceasefire, which will take effect upon the approval and signing of the ground rules and will be effective until a permanent agreement is forged as part of the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

The interim joint ceasefire “aims to provide a conducive environment for the GRP and NDFP negotiations, encourage the forging of a more stable and comprehensive Joint Ceasefire Agreement and provide an enabling environment for the eventual and early signing of CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms).”

The GRP and NDFP panels directed their respective ceasefire committees to “discuss, formulate and finalize the guidelines and ground rules for the implementation of the agreement, including rules governing the presence of armed units and elements of both parties in local communities, the creation of buffer zones, the prohibition of hostile and provocative acts, and ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanisms.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / Mindanews)