By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent

Military asks business sector for better coordination to counter NPA extortion

Posted on January 12, 2016

DAVAO CITY -- The military has called on the business sector in Mindanao to engage in closer coordination efforts with them to counter extortion activities and attacks carried out by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA).

Captain Alberto C. Caber, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), said the construction sector, particularly companies involved in public works, has been the most vulnerable to the armed NPA members.

“The Eastern Mindanao Command has issued a directive to military people to talk to the construction companies to harden measures against the NPAs,” Mr. Caber told the media.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) estimated the damage caused by the NPA bombings and torching activities in Mindanao last year at P246 million, excluding the revolutionary taxes that are collected forcibly.

Vicente T. Lao of the Davao City-based Vicente T. Lao Construction Corp., who also heads the Mindanao Business Council, said the AFP’s estimate is much lower than the actual number.

He acknowledged that the figure is undervalued primarily because businesses decline to report every incident of an NPA threat and the revolutionary taxes paid out.

“It only gets worse and the attacks continue every year,” Mr. Lao said.

Mr. Caber, however, said they can only address the longstanding problem if the private sector will work with the military.

“Expect the figure to increase several times more if the business sector, specifically the construction companies, do not cooperate with the military. Our security forces need your cooperation so please help us by providing us information. Let us help each other combat this problem,” he said.

The AFP has resumed its offensive against the NPA beginning Jan. 3, after the lifting of the Suspension of Military Operations, which was implemented during the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

“We will continue our military offensive operations in Eastern Mindanao,” Mr. Caber said, noting that the NPA force, estimated at about 4,000 as of July last year, has been reduced by 17% as of end-2015 with more than 300 rebels surrendering to the government.

The EastMinCom official also discouraged local and national candidates for the May elections from paying the so-called “permit to campaign, permit to post and permit to win” fees being demanded by communist rebels in areas where they operate.

“If they continue to give money to the rebels, then this would not help stop the insurgency,” Mr. Caber said.

Danilo A. Cullo, Commission on Elections Region 11 officer, said candidates who pay the NPA-imposed fees could be disqualified.

However, Mr. Cullo admitted that proving such payments would be difficult.