The People and the NPA Continue to Foil Attacks of the 50th IB, 5th ID Recon Coys of the AFP and PNP Troops in BAMPIS

Antonio Licawen Command
NPA – BAMPIS (Quadri-boundary of Benguet-Abra-MP-Ilocos Sur)
June 30, 2014

The Antonio Licawen Command (ALC) of the New Peoples Army (NPA) with the people valiantly carried out five Tactical Offensives (TOs) in the quadri-boundary of Benguet-Abra-Mountain Province-Ilocos Sur (BAMPIS) guerrilla front from April to June this year to heroically fight and frustrate the massive onslaught by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and as a response to the rising human rights violations incurred by the AFP and the PNP against the people in the area.

The continuing military attack by the AFP and the PNP and the positioning of military platoon Peace and Development Teams (PDTs) in BAMPIS communities which started January this year aim to deceive and terrorize the masses of peasants. This is part of the US-BSAquino regime’s counter-insurgency Operation Plan Bayanihan which is desperately attempting to achieve its target to render the NPA as an inconsequential force and to significantly weaken the entire revolutionary movement before the end of BSAquino’s term.

The people are arbitrarily accused as NPA supporters or even as NPA members, threatened and harassed, their movements restricted and economic activities controlled. They can no longer go freely to the mountains and forests to attend to their swidden farms, visit their pastured animals, go hunting, gather food and other needs. In sitio Taleb of barangay Baclingayan, Tubo, operating troops forcibly opened and entered several houses. AFP troopers raped two teen-agers in Dilong, Tubo, Abra last May. These human rights violations have only instilled anger among the peasants. A few “civic action” activities by the PDTs cannot cover this up.

As early as last year, the CPP-NPA has already declared that like its predecessors under previous regimes, Oplan Bayanihan has failed and that the entire revolutionary movement has grown much stronger during the first three years of the US-Aquino regime. With this utter failure, the AFP-PNP started this 2014 the second phase of Oplan Bayanihan to try to meet the same target within the next five years. The CPP-NPA and the masses had assured that this hopeless ambition of the enemy will be doomed.

TACTICAL OFFENSIVES

The most recent tactical offensive took place at around 10:30 AM of June 28 where a unit of the ALC ambushed operating troops of the 50th IB at Mount Layaban in Tubo, Abra. Five enemy troops were killed while at least two were wounded. This is the latest addition to earlier victorious attacks against the said battalion. Last May 1 and 2, joint forces of the ALC and the Alfredo Cesar Command (ACC) of the NPA in Ilocos Sur successively ambushed 50th IB forces in Cervantes and Quirino, Ilocos Sur. Five army men were killed when their vehicle was ambushed in Remedios, Cervantes last May 1. A command detonated explosive was used to supplement the firepower of the ambushing unit. Meanwhile, 23 army troopers were killed (not four as earlier reported) when they were waylaid between Dilong, Tubo, Abra and Malideg, Quirino, Ilocos Sur on May 2. In this ambush, the KM450 vehicle used by the reinforcing army troops who came rushing from Dilong, fell off the road into a deep ravine. This is so far the biggest casualty incurred by the 50th IB in one single battle. The fact that the twin ambushes were executed near the 50th IB battalion headquarters further emphasized the weight of the 50th IB’s loss. Lt. Col. Richard Sibayan, the 50th IB Commanding Officer, sounded ridiculous in his desperate attempt to cover up this big military defeat by repeatedly telling media that there was only one army trooper killed and a few wounded in the second ambush.

Earlier, on April 5, a unit of the ALC harassed operating troops of the 52nd Division Recon Coy (DRC) near Baclingayan, Tubo, Abra, resulting in the death of one army trooper and wounding of one more. On April 11, the Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge Mining Company in Patiacan, Quirino was punished through the burning of its drilling machine again by joint forces of the ALC and the ACC.

BAMPIS AS PRIORITY FRONT

The 5th Infantry Division listed the BAMPIS front as one of its priority guerrilla fronts targeted to be dismantled within the second phase of Oplan Bayanihan starting 2014. This means nothing but the continuous militarization of the area that would result in more human rights violations and would further wreak havoc upon the lives and properties of peasants and other people.

It will be recalled that the BAMPIS front has been continually militarized since 2005 to 2012 by troops of the 50th IB, 41st IB, the three DRCs of the 5th ID, the Special Action Force (SAF) and the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) of the PNP. Twice in the past, in 2009 under the Oplan Bantay Laya of the US-Arroyo regime and in 2011 under the Oplan Bayanihan of the US-Aquino regime, the 5th ID has declared the BAMPIS front as a priority front to be “ neutralized ” or even “ pulverized ” . But twice, the AFP miserably failed. And again, for the third time, the 5th ID has declared the BAMPIS as a priority front.

To ensure the 5th ID’s target, the 50th IB repositioned its battalion headquarters on Cayos ridge between Quirino and Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, right within the BAMPIS front. It ’ s Charlie Coy headquarters has already been located in Lepanto, Mankayan, Benguet for years. A coordinated massive military operation in BAMPIS and west Mountain Province immediately ensued on the last week of February that lasted until the first half of April. Four battalions were used in the said military campaign that involved the 50th IB, 54th IB, 52nd DRC, the RPSB and Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) of the PNP. This is a continuation of a similarly coordinated military attack last October to November 2013 covering the same area and using the same AFP and PNP forces. In BAMPIS, the operation covered the towns of Tubo, Abra; Besao, Mountain Province; and Quirino, Ilocos Sur.

After the Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge Mining Company in Patiacan, Quirino was punished last April 11, the 50th IB and 52nd DRC immediately launched a massive pursuit operation in Quirino and Tubo starting April 12. And after the successful twin ambushes last May 1 and 2 in Cervantes and Quirino, the pursuit operation expanded to include Mankayan, Benguet. At present, military operations continue in the towns of Tubo and Quirino with the RPSB and a unit of the 50th IB in Quirino while other forces of the 50th IB and the 52nd DRC are in Tubo.

Simultaneous with these combat operations are the positioning of platoons in different communities within the guerilla front. Starting March 7, one platoon each of the 50th IB were positioned in three barangays of Tubo (Dilong, Tubtuba and Alangtin) and two communities of Besao (Dandanac and Tamboan). Except for Dandanac and Tamboan, these PDTs have maintained until the present while two additional platoons were positioned in Lamag, Quirino and Baclingayan, Tubo. These platoons, tagged by the AFP with the misnomer “Peace and Development Teams” (PDT), only tormented and caused more burden to the already cumbersome situation of the impoverished peasants of the said communities.

THE REASON BEHIND THE NO LET-UP ATTACK ON BAMPIS

The growing revolutionary movement in the said guerrilla front is worrisome to the imperialists and the local ruling class because of their vast economic interest in the area. The AFP and PNP troops on BAMPIS are there to protect such interests. To start with, the country’s largest and longest operating mining company, the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo), is located in Mankayan, Benguet. Lepanto intends to expand its mining operations which will affect a larger part of Mankayan and nearby towns of Buguias, Benguet and Tadian, Mt. Province. The planned expansion has been successfully thwarted by the people despite numerous attempts of the LCMCo and its partners including the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to get the peoples Free Prior and and Informed Consent through threats and deceptions.

Large unexploited reserves of gold, copper and other minerals are also found within the area and have long been targeted by large imperialist and local capitalist owned mining companies that include LCMCo; Royalco Mining Company who has a mining interest in Bakun, Benguet; Solfotara Mining Company and its subsidiary Canex (Canadian Exploration) which has mining interests in Tubo and adjacent towns of Abra; the Northern Horizon Mining Company and the giant Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge Mining Company who have mining interests in Quirino; and Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge ’ s subsidiary Makilala Mining Company and another giant mining firm, Cordillera Exploration Inc (CEXI) who both have mining interests in Besao, Quirino, Tubo and other nearby towns. All these mining firms have been consistently opposed by the people of Mankayan and Bakun in Benguet; Quirino and Cervantes in Ilocos Sur; Tadian in MP; Tubo, Luba and Manabo in Abra; and in other towns elsewhere in Benguet, MP, Abra and Kalinga.

Several hydro energy projects have also been planned to be set up in the towns of Tadian, Besao, Tubo, Luba and Cervantes. These energy projects are set to serve mainly the power requirements of large scale mining operations and big businesses, not common consumers as we are made to believe. Through these projects, big companies are to extract super profits at the expense of the host communities and cause innumerable environmental destruction. The planned mining and energy projects remain a real threat that will cause further destruction and plunder of the ancestral lands, resources and communities of the people of BAMPIS in the hands of rapacious, exploitative and oppressive imperialists and local capitalists.

Amidst the fierce attack of the bloodthirsty reactionary state forces and the persistent threat of further devastation of the people’s ancestral lands, the masses of peasants have no other recourse but to fight the enemy, and the NPA being the people’s army is there to defend and protect the interest of the people. Thus, the CPP-NPA calls on the people to remain vigilant and militant, expose and fight against all forms of violence and human rights violations perpetuated by the AFP and PNP, and continue resisting the imperialist plunder of ancestral lands and resources. Only through fighting the enemy can we gain strength and further advance the national democratic interests of the national minorities of the Cordillera and the entire people until final victory is achieved. ###