Clashes between soldiers, rebels erupt anew in Southern Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 February) – Units under the 10th Infantry Division engaged New People’s Army rebels in Compostela Valley and Davao Occidental provinces over the weekend.

The weekend clashes followed a series of encounters between the military and the NPA in Compostela Valley last February 3 where three soldiers were killed and three others were wounded, an Army official said.

In a text message to MindaNews, Capt. Rhyan B. Batchar, 10ID public affairs chief said the first encounter happened at around 5 a.m. on Saturday and lasted 15 minutes.

Batchar said Bravo Company of the 73rd Infantry Battalion clashed with the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 71 in the Far South Mindanao Region covering Jose Abad Santos town in Davao Occidental and Glan town in Sarangani Province.

On same day, another 15-minute encounter took place at 2:30 p.m. in Sitio Binotaan, Brgy. Kingking, Pantukan in Compostela Valley when soldiers chanced upon members of NPA Guerrilla Front 2 led by a certain Raden.

The third clash occurred in Sitio Logpaton, Brgy Kingking when rebels opened fire at soldiers manning a checkpoint at 3 p.m. on Sunday resulting to a six-minute gun battle.

Batchar said no soldier was hurt. He claimed the rebels suffered casualties.

He said the NPA has large formations in the two provinces based on their assessment but added the 1001st Brigade can address rebel presence in these areas.

“Soldiers of 46IB and 73IB are still conducting pursuit operations against the NPAs,” a press release from the 10ID dated Feb. 8 said.

Last Feb. 3, Army 1Lt. Ralph Pantonial, Pfc Eulezys Bantulo, and Pfc. William Moreno were killed, while Pfc Jestoni Sabido, Cpl. Merlven Velunta, and a certain Herbert Aquino were injured in separate military operations.

In a press release Sunday, the National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao claimed the Feb. 3 clashes resulted in 30 military casualties.

It said the NPA’s Comval Davao Gulf Subregional Command ambushed the 46th IB in three separate incidents on Feb. 3 – at 12:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The first ambush occurred in Sapang Tin-aw, Brgy. Tibagon, Pantukan killing nine soldiers including 2Lt. Garcia. Ten were wounded and one was rendered missing, the NDF press release said.

“At 7:30 pm, the Red fighters ambushed the Army, damaging the military’s truck in Brgy. Cabahian where two soldiers were killed, including Army officer Capt. Pantonial, and seven others were wounded.  A Red fighter took a sniper shot and killed Sgt. William Morenio of the 46th IB in Barangay Biasong, Pantukan at 7:00pm,” the rebel group said.

It added the attacks were “meant to punish” the 46th IB for allegedly defending the interests of large-scale mining companies in Pantukan. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)