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NPA attacks Phil. Coconut Authority
By Ding Cervantes

May 25, 2009

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – The Domingo Erlano Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) admitted last week attacking and burning Thursday night thousands of dwarf coconut seedlings at a nursery of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in Dinalungan, Aurora. This is reportedly to protest the displacement of local farmers and the alleged plot of the Angara clan to control 137 hectares of flat lands in the area.

The Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) confirmed the report saying about 80 rebels believed to be from the NPA’s northern platoon command in Aurora burned “building structures (sic) of the Philippine Coconut Authority  and equipment, including coconut seedlings at Barangay Dibaraybay in Dinalugan at about 9 p.m. last Thursday.

The statement of the Domingo Erlano Command, however, did not mention burnt buildings and equipment. It mentioned only the burning of 14,000 coconut dwarf seedlings “to express our anger and the opposition of the people against the Coco Dwarf Plantation due to lack of public consultation, displacement of farmers, and the concentration of 137 hectares of flat lands in the hands of the Angaras after initial plans failed to classify the area as extension of Dinalugan town proper.”

Nolcom said the armed NPA rebels entered the gate of the PCA “and without warning burned the guard house and its three machines, including two shredders”. 

“The rebels also destroyed the PCA’s sugar cane plantation with 13,000 seedlings planted on it,” Nolcom said.

Nolcom reported that “the PCA employees immediately sought the help of the Army troopers of the 48th infantry battalion, 7th infantry division under commanding officer Lt. Col. Elias Escarcha. The 48th infantry battalion troopers, upon learning about the arson incident, organized and conducted pursuit operations against the perpetrators.”

The NPA statement said that the Coco Dwarf Plantation project “aims to concentrate and privatize public lands in the hands of a few influential people in Aurora, as well as foreign investors” under the so-called Aurora Development Plan initiated by Sen. Edgardo Angara and his sister Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo.

It said this is already “being done at the Aurora Special Economic Zone in Casiguran, the Food Basket Zone in Maria Aurora, the international ports in Dingalan, Casiguran and Dilasag, all wharves in coastal towns and even in mountains and seas.”

But for Nolcom, the burning incident last Thursday was “a blatant expression of the (NPA’s) misdemeanor and inhumane acts.”

“They are after the destruction of important projects intended for the people’s growth and development,” said 7th infantry division commander Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva.

Despite the attack in Aurora, Nolcom spokesperson Maj. Rosendo Armas said the military is on its track in crushing the NPA by 2010 as directed by Pres. Arroyo.

He said, however, that the NPA still has six guerrilla fronts in the Ilocos-Cordillera area and another two fronts in the Cagayan area. A front, he said, is equivalent to a military company with some 100 members.

Armas said that in Central Luzon, the NPA no longer has fronts, but maintains smaller “samahan ng partido platun”.  The incident in Aurora last Thursday, he said, was apparently done by mere platoons.

He explained that while a platoon in the military is normally composed of 21 members, the NPA’s platoon is believed to consist only of three members. The use of the word platoon by the rebels was apparently designed to mislead, he added.



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