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Himamaylan encounters trigger evacuations

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

On board an Air Force Blackhawk aircraft, Brig. Gen. Inocencio Pasaporte (left), 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, led an aerial reconnaissance of the encounter site in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City.* PA photo

An estimated 600 to 700 individuals have fled from their homes in the hinterland sitios of Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, following a series of encounters between Army soldiers and suspected New People’s Army rebels.

Beginning October 6 until early yesterday morning, soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion figured in three encounters with about 20 suspected New People’s Army rebels believed to be remnants of the NPA Central Negros 2 guerilla unit, reported to be reinforced by other rebel units in Negros Island, disclosed Brig. Gen. Inocencio Pasaporte, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander.

Mayor Raymund Tongson yesterday said that the displaced residents of Sitios Sig-ang and Medel, all in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, are now staying at three evacuation centers. Their basic needs are being attended to by the City Health and Social Welfare and Development Offices, respectively.

Classes in all levels in Brgy. Carabalan and its neighboring Brgy. Cabadiangan, all in Himamaylan City, have been temporarily suspended by Tongson until further notice, pending ongoing military operations.

On the other hand, Mayor Alejandro Mirasol also temporarily cancelled classes yesterday at the hinterland barangays of Bi-ao and Payao in Binalbagan, which are adjacent to areas of Brgy. Carabalan in Himamaylan City.

Tongson said they are waiting for the advice of the military when they can proceed with evacuating other residents trapped by the ongoing pursuit operations of government forces. “We still can’t enter the areas of conflict to bring government relief to the trapped residents because of the ongoing operations,” he added.

Around 60 individuals from Carabalan areas also fled across the town border in Brgy. Payao, Binalbagan.

Policemen are also checking identities of intercepted individuals at checkpoints, in response to reports of fleeing rebels merging with civilians.

While Army troopers discovered bloodstains and recovered assorted foodstuff and personal belongings left behind by the fleeing rebels at their temporary encampment in Sitio Sig-ang of the barangay where the first encounter took place, Pasaporte strongly debunked reports of two alleged minor rebels being killed in the encounter, whose photos were posted in some social media outlets.

The photo was later removed.

There were efforts of some individuals to mislead the public, Pasaporte said. While he did not name names, he said the source of the fake news was traced to an official of the Himamaylan City LGU, whose background is now being looked into.

On the other hand, Pasaporte thanked Mayor Tongson for taking care of the displaced residents.

“We are doing our best. Rest assured that the government is on top of this,” Tongson assured residents of Himamaylan City.*

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