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NPA combatants down to 33 in Negros Occ.

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

From a high of as many as 258 New People’s  Army combatants in 2019, their numbers are now down to about 33 fighters in Negros Occidental, Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander disclosed yesterday.

Based on the joint AFP-PNP community evaluation, Edralin reported that three dismantled NPA guerilla fronts, including those in the hands of its Regional Strike Force (RSF), have 49 firearms left.

The recent series of encounters with the 79th Infantry Battalion in Brgy. Pinapugasan, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, left three rebels dead, and resulted in the recovery of 16 assorted high powered firearms.

Each of the three dismantled guerilla fronts, including the Northern Negros Front, Central Negros 1 and Central Negros 2, in the area of operations of 303rd Infantry Brigade, now have a squad size unit left, composed of about eight persons, according to Edralin.

He also reported that the RSF augments remnants of three dismantled guerilla fronts, just to make it appear that they still have the numbers.

The 303rd Infantry Brigade supervises the 79th, 62nd and 94th Infantry Battalions, which are responsible for the dismantling of the NNF, CN1 and CN2 guerilla fronts.

On the other hand, the 302nd Infantry Brigade also supervises the 11th, 15th and 47th Infantry Battalions, tasked to prevent the consolidation efforts of  the dismantled Bohol Party Committee in Bohol, South East Front and South West Front of the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros/Cebu/Bohol/Siquijor, which has been suffering a leadership vacuum since last year, following deaths of its top regional leaders, including Ramon Posadas and Romeo Nanta, among other guerilla front secretaries.

Edralin also reported that the NPA, as part of their consolidation effort, are recruiting their inactive comrades again, along with minors, to beef up their dwindling ranks.

While admitting to having a hard time in locating rebel remnants, which further splintered into groups of three to avoid detection, he said they are also approaching NPA relatives and friends, and further collaborating with different government agencies, especially mayors, for them to surrender, through local peace engagements, before it will be too late for them.

We would not want more rebels to die, since we always wanted to settle and to end the local communist armed conflict through peaceful means, Edralin stressed.*

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