Basilan ambush: 1 dead, 35 hurt PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 08 September 2012 14:37

Gunmen believed to be Abu Sayyaf guerrillas ambushed two trucks loaded with workers of a rubber plantation cooperative, killing one and wounding 35 in Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan yesterday morning.

A sketchy report disclosed that rubber tappers of the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative (TARBIDC) were on their way to  the cooperative’s rubber plantation riding on two trucks shortly before 8 a.m., when an undetermined number of gunmen positioned on both sides of the road rained them with bullets.

Sources said the gunmen used high powered rifles in spraying bullets on the rubber plantation workers.

The attackers then retreated towards the hinterland.

Soldiers and policemen rushed to the ambush site after receiving report on the incident.

Police troopers and army soldiers were as of press time.still on hot pursuit operations against the attackers

The wounded were loaded on a navy boat and a passenger ferry for treatment in Zamboanga City.

Earlier the government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has created a task force that will probe hostilities in the Tumahubong rubber plantation in Basilan.

Mujiv S. Hataman, ARMM acting regional governor, said the task force is composed of representatives from the religious community, and officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), local government units, government security agencies and members of the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative, Inc. (TARBIDC).

TARBIDC, the former Sime Darby Rubber Plantation, is one of the largest in Basilan with over 1,700 hectares planted with rubber.

Hataman said the task force will validate all issues.

“There are historical conflicts that we have to address,” he said.

The creation of the task force is aimed at ending atrocities in the 1,700-hectare rubber plantation that have resulted in the death of more than 20 workers since 2010.

Jaime J. A. Rivera, executive director of the Basilan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., said the conflict in the Tumahubong agrarian reform cooperative is an example of problems facing investors when doing business in Basilan.

“We hope the authorities, especially those in Malacañang look deeper into this,” he said.

Recently, 10 soldiers were killed following a clash with armed men who were allegedly led by former officials of the cooperative.

The incident was cited as the worst that has occurred in the province in recent years. The fighting also affected more than 1,000 families in the four villages.

During a recent meeting, Hataman said his group learned of various issues in the rubber plantation such as mismanagement of the cooperative that led to a debt of P39 million, land intrusion, presence of armed men in the area, and conflict between members of the cooperative.

Hataman said he has directed officials of DAR and CDA to monitor the condition of agrarian reform cooperatives in Basilan, which are mostly into rubber production.

Based on provincial government data, Basilan has at least 15 rubber-based agrarian reform communities.

The probe will also check if members of the cooperative are benefiting from the system.

Taha D. Katoh, general manager of the TARBIDC, had earlier expressed fears that the Tumahubong cooperative will be placed under the control of the province’s crisis management committee. — Dan Toribio Jr.