(August 16, 2021) – Government troops on Monday killed at least 16 Communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in a land-sea-air assault at several rebel encampments outside Dolores town in Eastern Samar in what could be the biggest encounter this year, an army general said.
Major General Pio Dinoso III, commander of the 8th Infantry Division, said ground troops are still scouring the area for remnants of a large formation of Maoist-led rebels who dispersed after the air force, using FA-50 light jets dropped bombs at a known rebel encampment, where the guerrillas were believed to be manufacturing improvise bombs.
“We could not give you an exact number of casualties on the ground because our troops are still in the area,” Dinoso told journalists, adding the military suffered no losses. He said nearly 30 high-powered weapons were recovered in the area.
Another military officer, an army colonel assigned in Samar, said the presence of the rebels was detected by “heat signatures” when the army sent drones to locate the rebels’ camp after it received information from civilians.
“There were three targets,” he said. “We’re looking for a big rebel training camp deep in the wooded areas in Barangay Osmena in Dolores town. We have to make several passes in the area to confirm the rebels’ presence. Then, we sent the fighters and an Agusta helicopter to drop bombs and deliver rockets to the enemy camp.”
He said ground forces from the 52nd Infantry Battalion, backed by artillery fire, moved in as the rebels scampered in every direction. Troops from the 78th Infantry Battalion were sent to reinforce operating ground units.
In Manila, Colonel Ramon Zagala, the military spokesman, said the local community gave information about the presence of rebels outside Dolores town. He promised to give details of the operations as soon as troops complete an inventory of firepower recovered and the number of casualties.
“It’s a decisive battle,” Zagala told News5 Digital. “We’ve hit them hard. We are still assessing the impact of this major tactical victory on the morale of the enemy.”
The NPAs have been waging a protracted guerilla warfare for more than five decades in a conflict that has killed 40,000 people and stunted economic growth in the resource rich but poor rural areas in the country.
President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to crush the insurgency after scrapping peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines’ political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF) in 2017.
He then issued an executive order creating the national task force on ending local communist armed conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a whole-of-the-government approach to fighting domestic security threats.
Last month, Duterte announced in a speech before a joint session of Congress the military has dismantled 15 NPA fronts in the last five years and more than 17,000 rebels have surrendered, boasting the communist insurgency is waning.
However, the Communist Party of the Philippines denied Duterte’s claims, saying the figures he had cited make up a “minor part” of their guerrilla forces.