Thursday, February 01, 2007

4th ID marks 37th anniversary with capture of alleged NPA GHQ in Mindanao

Cagayan de Oro City (Mike Baños/Jan 31) - The biggest military unit in Mindanao marks its 37th anniversary today, February 1st, with the capture of what could be the general headquarters of the New People's Army (NPA) in Mindanao.

In a press conference held Monday at the division headquarters in Camp Edilberto Evangelista at Bgy. Patag, this city, Maj.Gen. Jose T. Barbieto, Jr., division commander, said what they first perceived to be the NPA's biggest bomb making factory and ammunition depot in Mindanao could very well be its regional headquarters in the country's second biggest island.

"Initially, we believed Greenfields to be the NPA's regional base in Caraga Region and home base of NPA Mindanao spokesman Jorge Madlos alias Oris," Barbieto said told media. "However, our continued evaluation of the evidence found in the area increasingly indicates that we have indeed captured what could be their general headquarters in Mindanao."
Organic units of the 4th ID led by elements of the 36th Infantry Battalion and the 4th Division Reconnaissance Company captured a complex of explosive and ammunition caches hidden in two caves in Sitio Greenfields, Barangay Sta Juana, Tagbina, Surigao del Sur after a brief firefight Wednesday morning, 24 January 2007.
"This is the first time the 4th ID has captured a camp this big with explosives as sophisticated as these," Barbieto said. Previously, the Diamond Division also captured bomb making factories in Liangga, Surigao del Sur and Zamboanguita, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon but these were on a much smaller scale than the Tagbina caves, he added.

Barbieto said the initial inventory of the captured materials have been appraised at PhP11 million, including a brand new US$5,000 ammunition reloading machine capable of reloading a wide variety of ammunition (with the price tag still attached), seven rolls of 500 meter (3.5kms total) detonating cords with a market value of P150, 000 per roll, and imported Superdyne brand liquid dynamite in 130 plastic containers (@150 pcs/container) and 18 Claymore anti-personnel mines valued at P9-million. Troops earlier also recovered an RPG launcher, a B40 anti-tank weapon, a motorcycle, and subversive documents believed to belong to Mr. Madlos after a brief firefight last January 18 southeast of Greenfields, Barbieto added.
Besides significantly degrading the NPA's bomb-making capability in Mindanao, Barbieto said the 4th ID has also reduced the number of guerrilla fighters in its area of responsibility (AOR).
"Since we started Operation Bantay Laya in 2002, we have reduced the estimated number of NPA fighters in our division AOR by 53% from 1,200 to only over 500 as of today," Barbieto said. "This is a very significant reduction compared to the national figure where the total number of NPA guerrillas was reduced 40% from 12,000 to only 7,000 today."
Captured NPA documents indicate there are 14 front committees (FCs) operating within the 4th ID AOR, nine in the North East Committee and five in the North Central Committee. Barbieto said the Philippine Army has programmed the activation of 90 Cafgu Auxiliary companies in 2007, at the rate of two CAA companies of 88 men each activated for each FC cleared by the AFP.
"We are also consolidating the CAAs in each FC so they can defend their entire municipality and carry out limited tactical operations against the NPA instead of merely defending the perimeters of their patrol bases and depending on the Army to carry out tactical operations against the insurgents," Barbieto explained.
Besides continued hot pursuit operations against Madlos and his men in the area, Barbieto said their intelligence units are now tracing the origin of the captured explosives and equipment since the evidence appears to indicate links to "other terror groups that use bombs and landmines in their terrorist activities," such as the captured rocket propelled grenade (RPG) and B40 anti-tank weapon.
"We still have no definite evidence of foreign involvement but we have received reports that the CPP-NPA-NDF in Surigao del Sur is being supported by foreigners," Barbieto said. He said one of the persons involved appears to be a female Caucasian, believed to be a British national, who has been reportedly extending medical assistance to the NPA guerrillas and their families.
Barbieto said their intelligence operatives are also investigating the NPA's possible links to big business firms, especially mining companies which use the type of explosives seized from the camp, and other businessmen who contribute protection money and "revolutionary taxes" to the insurgency.
Not the least, Barbieto said they are compiling a list of politicians identified to be "collaborating" with the NPA through the payment of "permit to campaign" fees within NPA-affected areas and submitting it to higher authorities for proper action.

No comments: