Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana asked the Philippine Army on Tuesday to help protect the heavy equipment of contractors from armed rebels in Samar provinces.
In his visit here, Lorenzana said contractors have been receiving threats from the extorting New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who do not want development in communities.
“Let us help protect these contractors since they are implementing flagship projects of the President. NPA members don’t want these development projects. If the road is completed, they have nowhere to hide,” Lorenzana told soldiers.
The official made the remarks days after 20 NPA members burned 10 heavy equipment on July 29 in San Francisco village, Las Navas, Northern Samar. These were owned by CDU Construction based in Catarman town.
The PHP32-million worth of torched equipment were two backhoes, a bulldozer, loader, dump truck, self-loading truck prime mover, crane, grader, welding generator set, and road roller.
The contractor deployed equipment in the area to open a road to form part of the new highway that connects the towns of Jipapad in Eastern Samar and Las Navas in Northern Samar.
Construction projects include the opening of 1.8 kilometers roadway, concrete paving of 2.4 kilometers carriageway, a drainage canal, the construction of a bridge and its approaches, and the installation of road safety devices.
Lorenzana said the NPA burned the equipment as the contractor refused to give in to extortion threats.
In a brief interview, Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar thanked government troops for their commitment to safeguard heavy equipment.
“Infrastructure is a solution to insurgency. It has been proven that a completed road project helps improve peace and order in an area,” Villar told reporters.
Villar specifically seeks help to secure the ongoing PHP1 billion Korean-funded Samar Pacific Coastal Road project connecting several towns in Northern Samar province.
The project, which has been delayed due to unfavorable weather, health crisis, sand and gravel shortage, and insurgency, will be completed early next year, according to Villar.
It was in May 2018 when Villar and South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-man led the project’s groundbreaking ceremony in Northern Samar.
It was supposed to be completed on March 12, 2020.
Lorenzana and Villar were in the city to inaugurate the PHP48 million building inside the Philippine Army’s 53rd Engineer Brigade headquarters implemented through convergence.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)