Army says 2 hinterland towns in North Cotabato ‘problematic’ but..

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 14 April) – Two hinterland towns in North Cotabato are considered by the Philippine Army as “problematic” or “very challenging” in terms of terrain and support that communist guerillas get from the communities, a military spokesperson said.

1st Lieutenant Prolen Bonacua, spokesperson of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion, identified these “problematic areas” as Arakan and Magpet towns.

Bonacua admitted the rebels operating in these areas enjoy the support of the communities, including some barangay officials.

He said the NPA raises fund through “extortion activities” traders, even government officials, allegedly through its “extortion activities.”

“But this won’t stop us from pursuing our intention to rid these areas of these communist guerillas.  We will pursue, and even intensify, military offensives against these groups,” he said.

He said they are gaining headway in that the NPA is “no longer that strong, unlike before” because “many of their members have surrendered.

The towns of Arakan, Magpet, President Roxas, and the city of Kidapawan, are under the 19th IB of the 901st Brigade, which was deployed to the province early last month.

The 19th IB was previously assigned in the provinces of Samar and Leyte in the Visayas

A week ago, soldiers from the 19th IB, on board two military vehicles, were ambushed in a remote village in Magpet, after they responded to persistent reports that NPA guerrillas were sighted in the area.

The soldiers, however, were able to fight back and succeeded in driving their attackers away, reports said.

No soldier was wounded.

A week ago, at least 29 NPA rebels from different areas in Magpet, led by a certain Felix Sicao, surrendered to authorities, he said.

Based on the Army’s intelligence reports, there are at least two NPA fronts operating in North Cotabato: Front 53 which covers the hinterlands of Arakan Valley Development Complex and parts of Bukidnon province, and Front 51 which covers Makilala, North Cotabato and other parts of Davao del Sur. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)