1 dead in rubber plant attack
COTABATO - Communist rebels have burned down a rubber processing facility in the southern Philippines, leaving a landmine that killed a factory worker as he rushed to the scene, the military said Monday.
The worker, Hector Lalaguna, was aboard a truck that rolled over the explosive as it sped towards the plant, said local army spokesman Lieutenant Nasrullah Sema.
The blast, in the farming town of Makilala on southern Mindanao island late Sunday, also wounded one other worker.
Sema said the attack by 20 New People's Army (NPA) rebels on the Standard Rubber Development Corporation plantation came after the firm rejected extortion demands.
The NPA, the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been conducting an insurgency in the Philippines since 1969, in which at least 30,000 people have been killed according to the government.
"We are convinced the landmine was intended for our troops who were expected to respond (to the fire)," Sema said.
Standard Rubber has been in operation since 1978 and claims to be one of the country's largest producers and exporters of natural rubber, according to its website. No company official was immediately available to comment.
Sema said other businesses in the area had been attacked by the same rebel group after they too refused to hand over "revolutionary taxes" -- a euphemism used by the NPA for extortion money.
The military has said the rebels earned P300 million (seven million dollars) from extortion and other illegal activities in 2011 alone.
While the NPA ranks have dropped to about 4,000 fighters from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, the rebel movement is still capable of mounting deadly attacks, especially in the countryside.
Two soldiers were killed in fighting with the rebels in a mountainous area in the northern Philippines last week.