Army stalls NPA drive to regain former strongholds in Leyte

The Philippine Army is deploying more soldiers in remote communities to block the campaign of the New People’s Army (NPA) to recover former strongholds in Carigara, Leyte.

FIGHTING INSURGENCY. Some of the personal belongings recovered from the New People’s Army after a brief clash in Hiluctogan village, Carigara, Leyte on Tuesday (Nov. 17, 2020). The Philippine Army is stepping up efforts to block the campaign of the communist terrorist group to recover former strongholds in Carigara town. (Photo courtesy of Army 802nd Infantry Brigade)

Lt. Col. Roberto Beatisula, commander of the Army’s 93rd Infantry Battalion, said they were acting on reports of civilians on sightings of armed men in remote areas.

“NPA members have moved to the mountains of Carigara after we cleared their infiltrated areas in Ormoc City and Kananga, Leyte. We are optimistic to clear Carigara villages before the year ends,” Beatisula said in a phone interview late Wednesday.

To achieve their goal, the military asked village officials to make their local task forces on ending local communist armed conflict (ELCAC) functional and provide information on the whereabouts of rebels.

Recently, suspected NPA members have been sighted in the villages of Canlampay, Hiluctogan, Libo, Upper Hiraan, and Caghalo. These five villages are among the 16 communities in Carigara town covered by the Army’s retooled community support program (RCSP) last year.

The CSP deployments aim to facilitate the government’s development programs by hearing the issues and concerns of vulnerable villagers and bring them to the attention of concerned government offices.

The military has reiterated their drive to increase their presence in Carigara town after a clash on Sept. 30 in Caghalo village that led to the recovery of several firearms.

The incident was the first encounter with the terrorist group this year, according to Beatisula.

In Canlampay village, soldiers recovered the documents on Nov. 13 from the house of suspected NPA members Edencio and wife, Nora Dionaldo.

Government troops also rescued the couple’s seven children, including five minors, and recovered war materiel from the house.

The pursuit against suspected NPA fighters who recently abandoned a nearby lair led government troops to the house of the Dionaldo couple. Edencio remains at-large while Nora and the couple’s eldest son, Ernie, were detained at the town’s police station.

On Tuesday, government troops had a brief gun battle with eight rebels in Hiluctogan village. No one was hurt from the military while bloodstains indicate casualties among rebels.

Carigara is about 48 kilometers northwest of Tacloban, the regional capital. It is a 2nd class town with a population of over 51,000.

The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (Sarwell Meniano, PNA)

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