Army still open to talks with NPA in Abra
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 11, 2013 - 5:19pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Army in Abra remains open to holding local peace talks with the New People’s Army (NPA) despite the recent allegations made by the rebels against its troops, an official said Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, chief of the Abra-based 503rd Infantry Brigade, said they would continue to support peaceful ways to end the conflict with the insurgents.

“We will welcome local peace negotiations. We will welcome peace talks in line with the new approach of the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process,” Iriberri said in an interview.

Iriberri also called on the NPA members to abandon the armed struggle and to choose peaceful lives. He stressed that violence and extortion activities would not address the issues being raised by the rebels.

Iriberri was asked to react to a statement by the NPA that the prospects of the peace talks are getting dim due to the military’s operations.

NPA Abra spokesman Diego Wadagan had claimed that two minors were hurt in an air strike staged by the military last May 31 in Malibcong, Abra.

No air strike

Iriberri, however, denied that an air strike was conducted in the province. He said the MG-520 helicopter involved in the operation only provided close air support.

“The press release of the (communist rebels) regarding the alleged air strike is pure propaganda,” Iriberri said.

He also clarified that he did not intend to use the word “air strike” to refer to the operation.

Iriberri said he merely quoted Malibcong Mayor Benido Bacuyag, who had used the word “air strike,” in his report to Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

Bacuyag reportedly got the term from the press release of the NPA.

“I talked to Mayor Benido Bacuyag of Malibcong and he attested that per verification with his constituents in the said barangays, there was no civilian casualty as a result of the air strike,” Iriberri’s text message to Bautista read.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said the close air support involved the delivery of two rockets to mark an area.

Iriberri said there are about 100 remaining communist rebels in Abra. He said the insurgents had resorted to propaganda due to their failure to launch offensives against military forces in Abra.

ABRA AIR ARMED FORCES DIEGO WADAGAN DOMINGO TUTAAN JR. EMMANUEL BAUTISTA HERNANDO IRIBERRI INFANTRY BRIGADE IRIBERRI MALIBCONG MAYOR BENIDO BACUYAG
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