BUTUAN (AFP) – Communist insurgents raided two banana plantations in one day in the southern Philippines in some of their most brazen attacks for months in the face of recent setbacks, authorities said Sunday.
The attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA) in the strife-torn island of Mindanao on Saturday caused extensive damage but no one was killed, officials added.
About 50 guerrillas raided an aircraft hangar at a plantation owned by Del Monte Philippines in the town of Tubay on Saturday evening.
“The rebels disarmed the security guards and seized their two shotguns, tied their arms… then proceeded to the hangar and poured gasoline onto the (crop-duster) plane. It took only less than thirty minutes to burn the area,” said investigating police officer Jomar Ascares.
Just hours before the burning of the plane and hangar, about 60 NPA fighters raided another banana plantation in Pantukan town, disarming 10 security guards, burning a building and equipment and cutting down about 300 banana plants, said the area’s police director Senior Superintendent Abraham Roxas.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging an insurgency since 1969 that has left tens of thousands of people dead.
They are believed to have about 4,000 fighters. The figure is down from more than 26,000 in the 1980s but they remain active, raiding rural businesses and isolated police and military outposts.
The group has suffered recent losses like the death of 13 NPA fighters in a clash with a pro-government tribal leader last month and the arrest of several senior insurgent leaders earlier this year.
The attacks on the plantations were in retaliation for the companies’ refusal to meet extortion demands, said a Mindanao army spokesman, Major Christian Uy.
He said the NPA fighters on the ground were becoming “desperate” to raise money because they were receiving less financial support from their superiors.
President Benigno Aquino had aimed to reach a peace deal with the communists by the end of his term in 2016.
But the government last year said talks had collapsed due to rebel demands that detained comrades be freed.