NPA rebels torch equipment at Bicol International Airport
By Celso Amo LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay Congressman Joey Sarte Salceda has urged the 901st Brigade and the Philippine National Police to secure the construction site of the Bicol International Airport(BIA) in Barangay Alobo in Daraga, Albay after New People’s Army rebels torched eleven construction equipment Thursday (Sept 28) evening. About 50 NPA rebels split into three groups and simultaneously attacked starting 8:00 p.m. Thursday the detachment of the 2nd Maneuver Platoon of Albay Public Safety Company in Barangay Bascaran. The exchange of gunfire between the 2nd Maneuver Platoon under Inspector Jake Lauro and about 15 NPA rebels lasted for about thirty-five minutes and stalled traffic along the national highway that night. The second group of rebels then attacked the Army detachment inside the international airport in Barangay Alobo to pin its personnel down to prevent any movement or reinforcement while a third group of rebels torched the eleven construction equipment parked along the runway using Molotov bombs, according Senior Inspector Arthur Gomez, Albay provincial office public information officer. Burned equipment of Quezon City-based EM Cuerpo Builders Inc. were five heavy dump trucks, a mini dump truck, a double cab, a grader, a mixer, a crane and an owner-type jeep. “We receive reports the local communist terrorists were extorting a huge amount from the EM Cuerpo Builders, Inc. which the construction firm cannot met,” said Gomez. No one was reported hurt or injured on the government side. The rebels, taking advantage of darkness, fled towards the direction of Barangay Burgos. This is the second attack at the international airport after NPA rebels set on fire 12 heavy equipment worth P76M of Sunwest Construction and Development Corp. last May 19, 2012 when Salceda was still Albay governor. “I felt so sad and so bad. Another setback after twelve years of effort but we are not giving up,” said Salceda. He asked the Army and the PNP to provide adequate security to prevent another attack at the construction site now that the passenger terminal is now on its final stage. “We remain hopeful and the entire government is resolute on President Duterte’s commitment of completion [of the airport] within three years will still be met by early 2020,” Salceda said. Salceda said the Bicol International Airport as a “flagship project is a pillar of our development, aspirations since tourism is our biggest potential.” Other vital facilities are the 634-kilometer railway to Matnog, Sorsogon and the bridge which will span Barangay Subic in Matnog, Sorsogon and Allen, Samar. “Tourism is the most inclusive and horizontal industry because it creates jobs at home instead of risking families when we send OFWs abroad.” He said tourism creates markets for Albayanos’ indigenous products and home-based enterprises and generates sustainable income through trade . “It is also the industry where Albay enjoys distinctive comparative advantage,” Salceda added. Col. Aldin Masagca, 901st Brigade commanding officer, based in Barangay Villahermosa in Daraga, Albay immediately dispatched troops to conduct hot pursuit operation against the communist rebels. Last Dec. 9, 2016, no less than President Rodrigo Duterte and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade led the groundbreaking rites for the P708M construction of landside facilities of the long-delayed Bicol International Airport (BIA) project in Barangay Alobo, Daraga to fast-track its completion.