A soldier was killed and another was seriously wounded in an encounter with rebels in New Corella, Davao del Norte on Monday.
The military withheld the identity of the two casualties pending notification of their next of kin.
Capt. Jerry Lamosao, the public affairs office chief of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said troopers of the 25th Infantry Battalion engaged some 30 armed men, said to be members of Guerilla Front 33 of the New People’s Army (NPA) led by Christian Pastor alias Khan, around 5:30 a.m. on Monday.
At least 100 families in Barangay El Salvador were forced to vacate following the incident.
Lamosao said the encounter ensued after residents informed the government troopers on the presence of an armed group in their area.
The residents, Lamosao said, reported to them that the armed group has been extorting them by asking for revolutionary tax.
Government troopers then conducted operation, resulting to the encounter that lasted for two hours.
Soldiers recovered one M14 rifle and an unexploded improvised explosive device (IED) along the escape path of the rebels.
The two wounded soldiers were immediately evacuated for proper disposition. But one of them later expired.
The town government facilitated the evacuation and provided food subsistence and temporary shelter materials to the evacuees.
“Other interventions, such as stress debriefing, will also be provided,” town administrator Alex Pana said during the initial damage/intervention assessment at the evacuation center on Monday.
The encounter happened a week after government troopers engaged rebels in Barangay Suawon in the same town.
Following the two encounters in town, town mayor Rhodora Alcoran, urged members of the NPA to “lay down your arms.”
“We are here to help,” she added.
In a statement, she said “It saddens us that we should come to this point where we should destroy the peace, sacrifice our livelihood, and, most tragically, lose lives.”
Residents reportedly complained that NPA rebels have been knocking door-to-door asking for food, clothing, and even medicine/medical treatment.
In another statement, B/Gen. Gilbert Saret, the 1001st Infantry Brigade commander, said the rebels “are already cornered, hungry, tired, [and] confused.”
“Our government forces are tireless, better equipped, and even better motivated to finish the insurgency, especially with the support and patronage the people are expressly showing,” Saret said.
“They (NPA) have lost their grounds and we are not giving them any opportunity to recover. The chance to surrender and cooperate with government is now or never,” he added.