Manila – Amid concerns over a new round of bloodletting between government and communist forces, the Philippine military will deploy about 500 special forces troops in Samar, an impoverished east-central region which has long been a hotbed of the 36-year-old communist insurgency.
The Scout Rangers and Special Forces, many of them trained by American soldiers, will join about 3,500 troops already fighting the New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas in Samar.
"The objective is to protect the localities and project to the people that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is a better and superior force against the New People's Army," said Maj-Gen Jovito Palparan, military commander in the Samar region.
While communist fighting strength dropped nationwide from 11,260 guerrillas in 2000 to 8,240 last year, the number of rebels in Samar steadily rose from about 600 in 2000 to 1,144 last year, the military said.
Maj-Gen Palparan said the lack of development and active local governance had enabled the communist rebels to set up their own "shadow government" by terrorising villagers. He claimed that a number of village officials even became members of the rebels’ shadow government.
In recent weeks, the rebels have intensified their attacks in an effort to help oust President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is facing impeachment over vote-rigging allegations and charges her family received illegal gambling payoffs.
* Army to deploy elite forces in Samar to fight NPA rebels (The Philippine Star, Aug 4)