Personnel of the Brooke's Point municipal police station and soldiers from the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 inspect the site at Sitio Bulho, Barangay Calasaguen where an encounter transpired on the morning of September 8, 2019. (File photo courtesy of PRO MIMAROPA)

Municipalities declaring the New People’s Army (NPA) persona non grata in the province might be one of the reasons why its armed members are perpetrating atrocities, an official of the Philippine Marines said Monday.

Lieutenant Col. Darwin de Luna, commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 (MBLT4) and commander of Joint Task Group South (JTG South), said it is possible that the declaration of the rebels as unwanted personalities in Brooke’s Point could be the reason why their troops were attacked at Sitio Bulho, Barangay Calasaguen on Sunday morning, September 8.

The attack on the Marines while helping in the local government’s anti-illegal logging campaign resulted in the wounding of SSgt. Samuel Mofar and undetermined casualties on the NPA side.

“Maraming pwedeng rason, katulad ng mga napapa-surrender natin dito sa southern Palawan. Katulad nang mga ginagawa nating Community Support Program (CSP), katulad ng pakikihalubilo ng Marines, ‘yong gift-giving, ‘yong pakikipag-usap natin sa mga community leaders, lalung-lalo na ‘yong pag-encourage natin sa mga local chief executives na mag-deklara ng persona non grata laban sa mga NPA. Ito ang mga posibleng dahilan kung bakit nila ginawa ‘yon,” he said in a press conference called by Joint Task Force Peacock (JTF Peacock) at the 3rd Marine Brigade Headquarters in Barangay Tiniguiban.

To date, nine municipalities in Palawan have declared members of the NPA persona non grata. The last to denounce them was Coron.

Brigadier General Charlton Sean Gaerlan, however, said that since December last year when the peace talks failed and Joma Sison ordered the NPA to escalate attacks against government troops, they have already prepared for what was to come.

“‘Yong threat talaga ng NPA na mag-conduct ng atrocities is high kasi may directive galing kay Joma Sison. Kasi hindi ba naputol ‘yong peace talks? Nag-direct siya ng intensified attacks on all areas dito sa Pilipinas. And since that time naman ‘yong mga task groups ay nag-intensify din nang pag-co-conduct ng added patrols that’s why noong December na anniversary nila (NPA), walang nangyari,” Gaerlan said.

Gaerlan added that during their anniversary in March and the conduct of the local elections, nothing also happened in the province because of the security measures being implemented by joint task groups South, North, and Puerto Princesa under task force Peacock.

He said the only incidents they have on record was the hurling of a grenade in the detachment of the MBLT4’s 24th Marine Company in Brgy. Aribungos, Brooke’s Point on July 23 and the recent encounter in Calasaguen.

“The joint task groups are really preventing violent attacks by conducting regular patrols, pagpupunta sa mga barangay, at saka pagco-conduct ng security measures just to ensure na Palawan is safe. So, nakakasingit-singit man sila (NPA), minor scale naman, unlike sa gusto nilang mangyari na talagang maka-overrun ng kampo, makakuha ng maraming firearms,” Gaerlan said.

Gaerlan assured Palaweños that JTF Peacock and the Western Command (WESCOM) are prepared and are doing their best to protect the residents in their area of responsibility.

He also said that despite the attack that wounded their soldier, and undetermined casualties on the enemy’s side, their call for NPA members to surrender and lay down their arms through the local peace talk will continue.

“We continue to urge the remaining members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA to choose the path to peace. We call on them to go back to the folds of the law by putting their arms down and surrender,” he said.

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Jayra Joyce Cañete Taboada handles the law and order and the science and education beats. She is also a licensed professional teacher.