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Militiamen build up in coal-rich village

KORONADAL CITY -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is training militiamen to thwart alleged growing infiltration of communist rebels in a far-flung village in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato that is rich in coal deposits.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexis Noel Bravo C. Bravo, chief of the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion, said more than two dozens of villagers have volunteered to become members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit.

"They want to join to fight the communist guerrillas now operating in [Barangay] Ned," he said, noting the New People's Army Front 73 has established a foothold in the area.

Bravo said the AFP has "token forces" in Ned, a government resettlement area, since they are more focused in the towns of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Magsaysay in Davao del Sur where communist presence is more intense.

Columbio forms part of the Tampakan copper-gold project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc.

Bravo earlier classified the Tampakan project as "potentially highly at risk" from NPA attacks.

In Lake Sebu, San Miguel Energy Corp. has set up a base camp in Ned in a bid to extract massive coal deposits in the area.

Claiming increased NPA presence in the area, Bravo said in a separate statement that 27th IB troops recently captured a communist rebel there.

The rebel was identified as Marlon Donayre, 25, of Pantukan, Compostela Valley.

Donayre confessed that he belongs to the NPA Guerilla Front 73, according to the military statement. He was captured by 27th IB troops at Sitio Tasufao in Barangay Ned after he detached from his group to gather firewood.

Taken from his possession were a hand grenade and a rifle magazine with ammunition.
Bravo said the captured rebel was working to organize a mass base for communist rebels in the area.

The captured rebel's revelations on NPA activities in Barangay Ned coincided with the information provided by an alias Estoy, a former NPA Front 73 member who yielded to the 27th IB last February, Bravo said.

Charges of illegal possession of explosive and ammunition have been filed against Donayre at a court in this city, Bravo said.

The military official accused humans rights group Karapatan of having a link with the NPA after members of the former allegedly tried to help Donayre.

In March, the 27th IB and members of the Taboli Manubo S'daf Claimants Organization, which is opposing the coal mining project, met here to discuss the military presence in Barangay Ned.

Members of the tribal organization feared harassment from the military on account of the ongoing campaign against the NPA rebels in the area.

Tamasco said their members are not sympathizers of the communist rebels.

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Bong S. Sarmiento | SunStar.Com.Ph | May 8, 2012 | Article Link

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