Philippine rebels burn light plane, warehouse

Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Suspected communist guerrillas burned a small plane used for aerial agricultural spraying and a warehouse near an airstrip in the southern Philippines in their latest attack, police said Sunday.

At least six New People's Army rebels disguised as policemen barged into the government-owned Philippine Agricultural Aviation Corp. late Saturday in far-flung Tubay town in Agusan del Norte province and used aviation gas stored in the compound to set a parked single-engine plane ablaze, police Inspector Napoleon Boiser said.

Boiser, who heads the police forces in coastal Tubay, said the gunmen, who identified themselves as communist insurgents, also burned a warehouse and an electric generator after disarming two guards. They took two shotguns before fleeing, Boiser said by phone.

The Moist rebels may have launched the attack after failing to extort money from the aviation firm or a foreign-owned banana plantation, which leases the small plane for aerial spraying, Boiser said, adding that it was a challenge to secure the remote town of nearly 22,000 people with his 22-strong police force.

The rebels, who have been fighting since 1969 in one of Asia's longest-running Marxist insurgencies, have escalated attacks against agricultural plantations and mining companies that they accuse of exploiting workers or damaging the environment.

The attacks have further dimmed prospects of a resumption of stalled peace negotiations. In contrast, government talks with the largest Muslim rebel group in the country's south have progressed and led to the signing of a new Muslim autonomy deal in March.

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