Airport builder: I’m not NPA target
LEGAZPI CITY — One of the contractors of what could be Bicol region’s biggest infrastructure project, a new international airport, expressed disbelief that his company was the target of New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas who attacked the airport project site and burned heavy equipment and trucks.
Rene Cuerpo, president and chief executive officer of construction firm E.M. Cuerpo Inc., said NPA had not demanded revolutionary tax from him or his company contrary to an initial report about the guerrilla attack on the site of the Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga town.
“Nobody approached us to demand revolutionary tax,” Cuerpo said.
Asked about a still unverified report that a rival company also involved in the project could be behind the attack, Cuerpo said he didn’t believe business rivalry could lead to such tactics.
“I don’t think a competitor would do something like that,” he said. “As a businessman myself, I could not do something like that,” he added.
But he said he would wait for results of an investigation on the attack.
He added that he had asked people who had access to the guerrillas to ask if the attack was really the work of NPA.
The military and police earlier said the attack came because E.M. Cuerpo refused to pay tax to the guerrillas.
The guerrillas on Thursday attacked the airport project site in the village of Alobo in Daraga town, Albay province.
They burned five dump trucks, a mixer, grader and a mini-dump truck that belonged to E.M. Cuerpo as shown in top photo. A jeep owned by another company involved in the project, Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., was burned, too.
Suspected guerrillas also attacked police and military detachments simultaneously with the attack on the airport as a diversionary tactic, according to a police report.
Cuerpo said his company in 2016 won the bidding for the project and had started mobilizing machinery and men only two months ago. The contract included construction of a terminal building and expansion of the runway.
Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay’s second district said the BIA completion was projected in the first quarter of 2020.
But as a result of Thursday’s attack, Joe Naz, liaison officer of E.M. Cuerpo, said completion of four components of the project would be delayed for several weeks.
These were the terminal building, a seven-kilometer service road, a four-kilometer runway extension and drainage system.
Salceda, key proponent of the BIA, said the attack, the second since May 2012, was another setback “after 12 years of effort.”
“But we are not giving up,” he said.
The NPA unit operating in Bicol has yet to issue a statement.
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