Evidence of plot to disrupt Asean Summit found in rebel camp: Philippines military

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Soldiers in Batangas province had recovered charred materials as evidence of an attempt by the communist rebels to carry out an attack as South-east Asian and other world leaders met in Manila last week, the military said on Monday (Nov 20).

Colonel Arnulfo Burgos Jr, commander of the Army's 202nd Infantry Brigade, said these materials were recovered when soldiers overran a rebel camp - one big enough for 50 to 70 people - in Nasugbu town in Batangas on Sunday.

On Monday morning, members of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), a unit that performs counterinsurgency operations in parts of Southern Tagalog, clashed with fleeing New People's Army (NPA) rebels along the boundary of Utod and Bunducan villages in Nasugbu.

Major Engelberto Nioda Jr, PAF group commander, said the initial firefight lasted for five minutes and was followed by sporadic clashes throughout Monday.

There were no reported casualties from either side as of Monday afternoon.

The Batangas clash came days after President Rodrigo Duterte announced his plan to classify communist rebels as a terrorist group.

But Col Burgos said soldiers had been conducting "clearing operations" since last month (October), based on reported tactical offensives the NPA planned to launch in the provinces "to humiliate the government" as it hosted the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.

Major Nioda said among the materials recovered from the NPA camp were "sketches" written on cartolina sheets.

Col Burgos said the rebels torched the materials before the soldiers arrived, but these were not completely burned "as we could still see clues (of their supposed) prepositioning".

"This was the same group that was supposed to carry out tactical operations, during the Asean (Summit), only these were aborted because of our operations," Major Nioda said.

No NPA attack was launched in Southern Tagalog provinces during the week of the Asean Summit.