KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines– Communist rebels on Sunday night killed a worker of a rubber plantation and wounded another after setting on fire the firm’s multi-million processing plant in Makilala, North Cotabato.
Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th Infantry Battalion, identified the fatality as Hector Lalaguna, and his wounded co-worker, Francisco Andap.
The workers were on board a light cargo truck rushing to the processing plant facility in Barangay (village) Talun-Talunan of Standard Rubber Development Corporation when the vehicle stepped on a land mine planted by New People’s Army (NPA).
“The landmine was intended for government forces who were expected to respond to the fire incident,” Sema said, adding that the NPA fired assault rifles while the fire was raging.
Witnesses said they saw the rebels, numbering about 30, chanting “Long Live CPP-NPA” as the fire was erupting on the multi-million plant located about a kilometer away from the Cotabato-Davao highway.
Another witness said the rebels arrived on board a hauler truck at about 8 p.m. and surrounded the processing facility. They then started pouring gasoline and set the place on fire.
Other rebels surveyed the lone road leading to the processing plant and planted several landmines, Sema said.
Sema believed the attack was due to the firm’s refusal to pay revolutionary taxes being collected by NPA Front 72 in North Cotabato.
Other multi-national firms producing banana and other high value crops in North Cotabato had been allegedly subjected to harassment by the NPA for the managements’ continuous rejection of forced taxation by the rebels.
Makilala Mayor Rudy Caoagdan condemned Sunday’s attack and called on the military to take appropriate action.
The burning of the rubber processing plant came as the national government celebrates the National Peace Consciousness Month with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process calling for the resumption of the peace talks with the communist rebels.