The Philippine Army in Eastern Visayas on Tuesday reiterated its call to government agencies to help stop the flow of financial resources to the New People’s Army (NPA).
Brig. Gen. Ramil Bitong, assistant division commander of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division (8ID) said the NPA will never exist in Samar and Leyte province without any funding support.
“Our effort is to stop the NPA finances. They have many sources. For instance, in Northern Samar they have been earning from sand and gravel, land grabbing, and collection from government projects,” Bitong told reporters.
Citing the military’s recent research, the NPA has generated about PHP160 million in the past few years through collections from sand and gravel extractors in areas between Palapag and Lapinig towns in Northern Samar.
“We also have a letter from a mayor telling us that about 10 percent to 20 percent of internal revenue allotment shares of some NPA-influenced villages are given to the NPA. The combined amount is huge,” Bitong added.
The Philippine Army has asked the Commission on Audit to provide reports on fund utilization of some remote villages in Northern Samar for scrutiny.
Another strategy of the NPA, said Bitong, is to force landowners to abandon their farms. The rebels then turn over this land to NPA supporters for cultivation. The income from farming goes to the NPA.
“Through our operations, we’re able to reduce the NPA-controlled farm area in Northern Samar from 3,000 hectares to 1,200 hectares in 2019,” Bitong added.
He also condemned the NPA for asking revolutionary taxes from government contractors, causing the delay of infrastructure project completion.
At the start of a negotiation, the rebels ask for 10 percent of the project cost. Through bargaining, the rebels agree to collect 1 to 3 percent, Bitong said.
“Even if it is only 1 percent, that it is still a huge amount of money since these government projects cost billions of pesos,” he said.
Northern Samar province is considered as a stronghold of NPA due to poor road networks, high poverty incidence, and thick forest cover.
The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
As of October 2019, the NPA in Eastern Visayas has 506 active members and 447 firearms, infiltrating the region’s 144 remote villages, the Philippine Army reported. (PNA)