A band of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels fired at a plane that was spraying chemicals on a banana plantation in Tagbina town in Surigao del Sur, killing a pilot on Sunday (March 18), police said.
SPO2 Ricky Paje, investigator of the Tagbina police station, said the plane owned by Dana Farms Aviation, Inc. piloted by Captain Lynbert Laguda, was shot at while conducting spraying runs at Sumifru banana plantations in the village of Malixi at around 8 a.m.
“Although he was wounded, the pilot managed to land the crop duster at its hangar in Baragany Sta. Fe,” Paje said in a radio interview.
But Laguda, a resident of Barangay Libertad in Butuan City, died from a bullet that hit his back while being taken to a local hospital, Paje said.
A subsidiary of the Sumitomo Corporation, Sumifru owns a vast banana plantation in the upland town of Tagbina, has been subject to attacks by alleged NPA rebels in the past, with banana-laden container trucks being burned, but Sunday’s incident was deadliest single attack it ever experienced.
Last year, Ka Ariel Montero, spokesperson of the New People’s Army-Northeastern Mindanao Regional Command warned against the continuing destructive aerial spraying in banana plantations to avoid serious damage to the environment and health of the people around the plantation.
“This practice has been discontinued in other places like Davao City, because of the people’s opposition to its proven harmful effect. But with the capitalists’ greed for profit and utter disregard of the effects on the environment and the people, Sumifru, Dole and Del Monte continue to implement this,” he said.
The NPA spokesperson also warned aviation companies against renting out their equipment for aerial spraying in plantations such as those owned by Sumifru and other multinational agriculture companies . By GD