DAVAO CITY, Philippines, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Suspected leftist rebels fired at a light plane spraying pesticides in southern Philippines on Sunday, killing its pilot, the military and police said on Monday.
Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the military's Eastern Mindanao Command said the incident involved a plane contracted by Sumitomo Fruits Corporation in the farming town of Tagbina in Mindanao's Surigao del Sur province.
Police said a single-engine Grumman biplane piloted by Capt. Lynbert Laguda came under fire while flying low in a routine spraying run on Sunday morning.
Three bullets tore through the fuselage near the cockpit and one of these hit the pilot in the back.
The wounded victim was able to land his aircraft but expired shortly upon reaching a local hospital due to excessive blood loss, authorities said.
Leftist insurgents have raided banana firms in the region, chopping down banana plants, burning farm buildings and disarming security guards due to the firms' refusal to pay "revolutionary tax", officials said.
Authorities said it was the first time the rebels directly targeted aircraft used by agribusiness firms but the rebel group had warned in 2016 to shoot down planes used by banana plantations in the region for allegedly engaging in environmentally-destructive practice.