- GILBERT BAYORAN
Sporadic gun battles between Army soldiers and suspected New People’s Army rebels prompted about 700 residents in the hinterland sitios of Brgy. Carabalan in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental to flee their homes for security reasons.
Mayor Raymund Tongson suspended classes in all levels in barangays Carabalan and Cabadiangan, all in Himamaylan City, until further notice, pending the ongoing military operations.
Classes in hinterland barangays of Bi-ao and Payao in Binalbagan, the adjacent areas of Carabalan, were also temporarily suspended, until further notice, by Mayor Alejandro Mirasol.
Since Thursday until early this morning, Oct. 7, soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion figured in three encounters with about 20 suspected rebels, believed to be remnants of the NPA Central Negros 2 guerilla unit, and reported to have been reinforced by other rebel units in Negros Island, Brig. Gen. Inocencio Pasaporte, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said.
While Army troopers recovered assorted foodstuffs and personal belongings left behind by the fleeing rebels at their temporary encampment in Sitio Sig-ang in Carabalan, where the first encounter took place, Pasaporte debunked reports circulating in the social media that two rebels, both minors, were killed.
Tongson, meanwhile, said the displaced residents are now staying in three evacuation centers in Himamaylan City and are being attended to by the City Social Welfare and Development Office and the City Health Office personnel.
As military operations continue, Tongson said their movement is restricted due to the “no coming in, no pulling out policy” of the Philippine Army.
Policemen are also checking the identities of individuals at checkpoints, in response to reports of fleeing rebels merging with fleeing civilians.
Meanwhile, Pasaporte said he believes that they have been able to thwart possible terrorist activities of the armed group consolidating forces in the area./GB