A couple of weeks ago, returning from the forest, Gerald informed the group that the helicopters we could hear in the distance were army helicopters. They were flying to a region about 10 miles away to try and out some members of the NPA, a rebel force. Earlier that day three army officers who were part of a larger patrol, were killed by an NPA booby trap. Two of them were 20 and 18. Young men.
The NPA are a rebel group settled in the North of the Philippines and they are the National People’s Army. The group is loosely labeled a Communist group and they are fighting to overthrow the government. In talking to different people I get different responses about the validity of the NPA. People from Manila I have spoken to have suggested they are a problem group who cause trouble for the government and want to stop development in the country. Some people perhaps back the army because they are government affiliated and the NPA are less well known, and are maybe associated with different rebel groups in the south of the country who are fighting for different causes.
In North Luzon, in the mountains, it seems, however, that people are more open to the NPA. I have heard that it is often the NPA who stop illegal loggers. They have done pre planned simultaneous bombings of illegal loggers bulldozers. They have tried to protect the forest and are known to help people work in the rice fields. They are local to the area. Perhaps the sons of local families or farmers, and local people can sometimes help them to hide when the army is in town trying to find them. Most of all, I get a sense that the NPA are more for the people than the government army. There are big political figures who have ‘private armies’ in the North and the government army often hassle locals (not tourists I might add), asking for ID or being rude and taking what they want. I can’t help but think that the army might well be an arm of the government, who’s interests lie in big money regardless of any development or hardship that it might bring to an area. The Philippines government has its fair share of corruption difficulty.
It is an interesting struggle. The NPA who live and hide in the forest are outresourced in every single way, but as long as they have the forest to keep them, they will never be eradicated. I hope the forest doesn’t disappear.