The Philippines, Legazpi city – alert members of the Army’s 65th Infantry Battalion, backed up by civilian volunteers, foiled an attempt by some 20 heavily armed New People’s Army (NPA) rebels to occupy and torch a cement plant in Camalig, Albay before dawn Sunday.
Lt. Col. Manuel Orduña, commanding officer of the 65th IB based in Barangay Tula-Tula in Ligao City, said the rebels, including four women, arrived on board a passenger jeepney near the Taiwanese-owned Palanog cement plant at about 2 a.m.
Orduña said the rebels, led by a certain Ka Tan of the Probinsya Yunit Guerilya, split into two groups, one of them attacking an Army detachment about 300m away from the cement plant.
The other group, meanwhile, managed to enter the plant’s compound and proceeded to the workers’ quarters, which they ransacked of TV sets and the personal belongings of the plant’s engineers.
Orduña said the rebels wanted to torch the plant’s control room to "punish" the management for refusing to pay "revolutionary taxes."
Unknown to the rebels, Orduña said they had received an intelligence report that the NPA would launch an attack early Sunday, prompting them to have the nearby detachment manned by five officers and 25 civilian volunteers.
The rebels fired at the detachment using M-14 and M-16 rifles and M-60 machine gun, triggering a 15-minute firefight, and detonated a landmine to destroy the cement plant’s concrete wall.
Orduña said a number of rebels were killed or wounded in the firefight, as evidenced by drops of blood at the scene. Nobody was reported wounded on the government side.
After sensing that they could not occupy the cement plant and burn the control room, the rebels withdrew toward Barangay Kaguiba, bringing along their wounded comrades.
"This is pure and simple robbery and holdup," Orduña said.
The rebels were reportedly after engineer Carlito Aparis, security officer of the Palanog cement plant, who was not around during the attack.
After the incident, soldiers recovered two landmines, 56 anti-personnel explosives, five M-203 grenades, 10 improvised explosive devices, and a half-sack of empty shells of M-14, M-16 and M-60 machine gun.
The NPA band behind the unsuccessful attack, according to the military, belongs to the Probinsya Yunit Guerilya, the main force of the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 79 led by Elmer Arevalo alias Ka Ryan.
Orduña said Arevalo, who is facing multiple murder charges, was captured at an NPA safehouse in Ligao City last January, but was able to post P300,000 bail.
Five years ago, some 100 rebels occupied the Palanog cement plant and torched the control room, causing the plant to shut down.