CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 30 May) – A group of foreign development workers escaped death when communist rebels exploded a landmine on their convoy as they were coming down from the mountains in Impasug-ong town, Bukidnon Thursday morning.
Lt. Col. Ronald Illana, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion, said military security escorts of the foreigners engaged the rebels in a 40-minute firefight.
Illana said eight soldiers were wounded, including the Army team leader, Lt. Angelo Francis Vinuya.
He said three of the NPA rebels were also wounded as can be seen in the bloody trails around the ambush site.
Illana said none of the 11-man group of Malaysians, Indonesians, and Vietnamese were injured.
Pia Paraiso, spokesperson for the NPA Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon, confirmed that it was their units who engaged the convoy.
She did not provide details of the incident saying they are still waiting for the report of the NPA unit involved in the fighting.
Col. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade, said the foreigners went to a Higaonon tribe village in barangay Hagpa, Impasug-ong town last Wednesday.
He said the foreigners contacted the Higaonons and sought assistance from the local government of Impasug-ong.
“They wanted to see the activity of the Higaonon Lumad in their village and how they preserve their cultural traditions,” De Leon said.
After spending a night in the Lumad village, the group left Thursday morning aboard a dump truck provided by the LGU.
A military truck also went along with them to provide security.
Illana said that upon reaching Sitio Nasandigan, Barangay Kalabugao, a landmine detonated by the rebels exploded in front of the escorting military truck.
He said a 40-minute firefight ensued as the soldiers fought the rebels. Most of the foreigners were safely hidden at the back of the dump truck.
After the fighting subsided, Illana said the foreigners left for Laguindingan Airport to catch their flight to Manila. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)