By FROILAN GALLARDO
and NITZ ARANCON
MILITARY and police authorities raised the alert level in the region as New People’s Army rebels stepped up offensives along the boundaries of Bukidnon and Lanao, and in Misamis Oriental.
Troops foiled an attempt by communist rebels to carry out an attack on the Minergy power plant in Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental on Sunday, said Col. Francis Carandang, commander of the 58th Infantry Battalion.
The same day, rebels attacked a military reconnaissance patrol, killing an Army sergeant and wounding another in Rogongon, a hinterland village south of the Iligan city proper and near Bukidnon on Sunday.
Col. Alex Aduca, commander of the 4th Army Mechanized Battalion, said T/Sgt. Edgar Andal and Cpl. Raymart Pamplona were checking the road from Iligan City to Talakag town in Bukidnon when they came upon a checkpoint manned by the rebels.
Aduca said his men tried to turn back but the rebels fired at them, killing Andal and wounding Pamplona.
“They were checking the road to see if it is still passable for our vehicles because it rained hard for several days,” Aduca said.
Aduca said he believes that the rebels who staged the series of attacks near the boundaries of Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte belong to one group, the NPA 68th Guerrilla Front that is known to be operating in the villages bordering the two provinces.
In Misamis Oriental, Army troops and Maoist rebels exchanged firepower in Barangay Banglay in Lagonglong town at around 1 pm Sunday.
Col. Carandang said the 20-minute fierce encounter between the rebel group of about 10 fighters and troops led by 2Lt. Eric Buyan prevented am attack on Minergy in Balingasag.
He said soldiers forced the rebels to retreat.
“The NPA rebels were conducting reconnaissance in the area for the conduct of their planned atrocities against the Minergy plant in Balingasag,” said Carandang.
Camp Alagar stepped up security operations in the region in response to the NPA offensives.
Col. Carandang said the police fielded officers to Barangay Dampil in Lagonglong in Misamis Oriental where the alert level was raised and where “blocking operations” are ongoing at presstime.
Police regional director Chief Supt. Timoteo Pacleb also ordered the deployment of more police officers to the outlying villages of Talakag in Bukidnon near Wao in Lanao del Sur.
Senior Insp. Jessie James Lasdose, chief of Talakag police, said army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division and police officers from the Regional Public Safety Battalion have joined forces in going after rebels responsible for the series of attacks in the town since Thursday.
Sunday’s attack against soldiers was the latest latest in the series of offensives in the Bukidnon-Lanao area since last week. The Thursday ambush left one policeman and a four-month-old baby girl killed in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag town.
Capt. Norman Tagros, 403rd Infantry Brigade spokesperson, said the baby was with her mother in a Toyota Fortuner that was following a police vehicle. He said the girl’s mother was unscathed but five other civilians in the Toyota Fortuner were wounded in the attack.
Tagros said the target of the NPA ambush, a police Mahindra vehicle, crashed into a roadside ditch, killing SPO3 Arnel Carillo.
The NPA owned the responsibility for the attacks but was silent on the death of the baby and the wounding of civilians.