BACOLOD CITY – A fierce clash between government troopers and communist terrorists claimed the lives of three soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 94th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental on Sunday.

The 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) identified the fatalities as 2nd Lt. Ralf Amante Abibico of Bauko, Mt. Province; Cpl. Joel Nobleza of Jamindan, Capiz; and Pfc. Carl Venice Bustamante of Surallah, South Cotabato.

Maj. Gen. Eric Vinoya, commander of the 3ID, condemned the “cowardice and the dastardly act of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) terrorists”.

“To the families, relatives, and friends of our fallen soldiers, we extend our deepest sympathies. They died protecting the people of Negros, they died as heroes,” Vinoya said in a statement on Monday.

Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, which has jurisdiction over the operations of 94IB based in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, also paid tribute to his three men.

“We express our deepest sympathies to the families of our hero-soldiers who died fighting for peace in Negros Island,” Pasaporte said.

Four soldiers were also wounded during the 30-minute firefight in Barangay Carabalan which started at around 10 a.m.

They were identified as Cpl. John Cris Laus, Cpl. Lismer Jade Tumayao, Pfc. John Paul Geonzon and Pfc. Alexis Mepranum. They are all in stable condition in a hospital in this city.

Pasaporte said government troops were deployed to the area to secure residents claiming social amelioration grant from personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis. The soldiers pursued the rebels extorting food and money from residents.

He added that when the troops were closing in on them, the communist-terrorists set off an improvised explosive device and threw hand grenades. The explosion immediately killed Abibico and one of his men. The other soldier died while being evacuated.

Pasaporte said the soldiers also saw the rebels dragging their dead and wounded comrades.

“We will heighten operations to capture these NPA terrorists and stop them from sowing fear in the communities,” he added.

The CPP-NPA, which has been waging 51 years of war 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. (PNA)

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