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Bicol-based troops to sustain operations vs. NPA

LEGAZPI CITY, June 25, 2016 - The Philippine Army's 901st Infantry Brigade based at Barangay Villahermosa in Daraga, Albay said it will sustain its combat operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) in its area of responsibility after incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya ordered Bicol-based troops not to relax or lower their guard but to sustain their anti-insurgency activities.

The order came on the heels of NPA ambuscades against the Philippine National Police (PNP) that left one cop killed and two wounded, including a student in Masbate, on June 5 while two cops were killed and another civilian was wounded in an ambush in Bulan, Sorsogon on June 3.

“There are groups in the New People’s Army which do not follow order from their higher-ups despite an agreed ceasefire,” Brig. Gen. Claudio L. Yucot, 901st IB commander, said during a press conference at the Air Force’s Tactical Operations Group 5, Friday morning.

“I came to know this hard lesson for the last 30 years fighting communist rebels,” he said, adding that there are NPA units which are engaged in banditry.

The brigade’s operational control is in Albay, Catanduanes and Camarines Sur’s third, fourth and fifth districts -- including the towns of Castilla, Pilar, Donsol in Sorsogon province.

“Yes we are always ready while the peace talk is being worked out,” Yucot said.

He said it is a welcome development that the government is entering another peace talk with the Communist Party of the Philippines, the National Democratic Front and the New People’s Army in the country.

“But this does not mean that we will put our guards down because there are rogue elements in the NPA who will take advantage of the situation to make a fast run against us,” the Army official said.

Based on military intelligence, Yucot said, there are less than 30 NPA regulars operating in his command's area of operation.

“I want them (the rebels) to avail of the comprehensive local integration program. It’s sad to think Filipinos are fighting and killing each other because a group wants to impose a bankrupt communist ideology,” he said.

Yucot added that this program will give a new chance for their families to live a peaceful and normal life.

Although there is no formal order yet for a ceasefire, they might take advantage to attack far-flung and weak areas, he said.

“Once the order is given to start the peace talks with the accompanying cessation of hostilities, we will follow the order. Whatever order is given to us by our new AFP Chief of Staff we will follow it to the letter,” the Army official said.

Yucot added that there is no problem with the incoming AFP Chief of Staff because he is a very competent commander and a very good leader.

Visaya flew to Camp Elias Angeles, the headquarters of the 9th Infantry Division in Barangay Tinangis, Pili, Camarines Sur on June 20 to bid farewell and personally thank the officers, men and women of the Army’s best infantry division.

He was received by 9th Infantry Division Commander Major Gen. Ferdinand F. Quidilla with the rest of the Team 9ID.

There was a command conference on the current status of division’s internal security operations which was attended by field commanders.

It was followed by a talk from Visaya to impart some guidance of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

He said his job as Southern Luzon commander was made easier because of “your cooperation and support."

Visaya will assume the post as AFP Chief of Staff on July 1.(PNA)


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