CAMP Elias Angeles, Pili, Camarines Sur — Bicol region is one of five areas in the country where the Armed Forces is persistently fighting communist rebels aside from Davao Del Norte, Negros, Compostela Valley and Samar.
This was revealed by Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Oban during a visit in Castilla, Sorsogon, his hometown.
Oban said it is the priority of the AFP to neutralize the presence of communist rebels in these areas and “ultimately bring peace in this localities,’’ he stressed.
He added that the New People’s Army’s strength has diminished to about 4,000 armed insurgents nationwide compared to some 15,000 in the 1980s and 90s.
The AFP chief also expressed optimism that the ongoing peace initiatives between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) may ultimately come to an end.
Meanwhile, Army 9th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Josue Gaversa has identified Sorsogon and Masbate as Bicol region’s most active areas in terms of rebel presence.
Sporadic rebel attacks in the two provinces whose terrains are rugged and therefore ideal for guerrilla hideout had been noted for the last two months. The latest among the rebel attacks was the foiled assault on a municipal police station of Barcelona, Sorsogon, before midnight of Sept. 23 which left two policemen wounded. Some 50 NPA rebels fired their automatic weapons at the police post.
Last Monday, Barcelona police commander Chief Inps. Edgar Azotea condemned the NPA attack.
Azotea said local residents lay facedown on their floors when the motorcycle-riding rebels staged the attack. Many children in the area were traumatized by the exchange of gunfire that lasted for an hour.