A Philippine Army soldier lies dead after the ambush incident.
A Philippine Army soldier lies dead after the ambush incident in Las Navas Northern Samar.

TACLOBAN CITY, (PNA) -– A soldier was killed and three other government troopers were wounded when suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) attack a military disaster response truck in northern Samar early Tuesday morning, hours before the start of 12-day unilateral ceasefire.

The military cargo truck was heading to the town center of Las Navas, carrying six soldiers tasked to deliver equipment for Las Navas Agro-Industrial School, a training center run by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The ambuscade took place in the remote village of Bukid around 5 a.m. on Tuesday.

The firefight with undetermined number of suspected communist rebels lasted for 15 minutes, said Capt. Isagani Viernes, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division, based in Catbalogan City, Samar.

Las Navas, a fourth class farming town, is about 317 kilometers north from the regional capital of Tacloban.

Equipment are supposed to be used for disaster response in the town after typhoon “Nona’s” devastation.

Viernes refused to name the victims since their families are not yet informed about the incident. The army troops belong to the 20th Infantry Battalion based in Opong village, Catubig, Northern Samar.

Wounded soldiers were brought to hospitals in Tacloban City and in a district hospital in Catubig town in Northern Samar for treatment.

“Since the aftermath of typhoon Nona, we don’t have military offensive since our focus is on disaster response. Rebels are taking advantage on our operation,” Viernes said.

The rebels launched the attack before the 12-day holiday truce and four days after the ambuscade of a disaster response military in Pinabacdao, Samar.

President Benigno S. Aquino III has approved the recommendation of the Department of National Defense for the unilateral declaration of the Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) against the NPA for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The SOMO will commence at 12:01 a.m. of December 23, 2015 and would end at 11:59 p.m. of January 3, 2016.

“We will be on defensive mode even if there’s SOMO because rebels traditionally mark their anniversary with atrocities,” Viernes added.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army will celebrate its 47th founding anniversary on Dec. 26. (PNA)