Misamis Oriental stops mountain hikes as AFP, NPA clash
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Emano has ordered a temporary ban on mountaineering activities in four of the province’s 23 towns in the wake of recent skirmishes between Army troops and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
In his order to the Provincial Tourism Office on Wednesday, Emano stopped all mountaineering-related activities in the towns of Sugbongcogon, Salay, Binuangan, and Kinoguitan as tourists might get caught in the crossfire if the skirmishes continued.
He said hikers and mountain climbers have been discouraged from making the hinterlands of the four towns their destinations.
Earlier, classes in at least six hinterland barangays (villages) in Misamis Oriental were also suspended due to the renewed clashes between soldiers and NPA rebels.
Nicole Managbanag, the Misamis Oriental information officer, said the latest in the series of clashes took place on Tuesday, which prompted barangay officials to advise teachers not to conduct classes in the villages of Matampa in Salay town; Guinalaban, Membuahan and Ampianga in Sugbongcogon town; and Kitambis and Veldeconcha in Binuangan town.
The three towns share common borders.
Managbanag said village officials suspended classes and instructed teachers to go home.
Some 662 pupils were affected by the class suspension, she said.
Gerrymae Pasco of the provincial disaster risk reduction management office said no evacuation has taken place as of yet but the provincial government has readied relief goods for such an emergency.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, the commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based here, said one soldier was killed in the Misamis Oriental clashes, which started Monday.
He said the clashes were the result of military operations aimed at flushing the rebels out of the province.
“As you can see, the recent encounters in the area are the result of our deliberate and careful planning of the operations. These have been made possible by the timely information given by concerned civilians, who are already fed up with the lies and deceit of this terror group,” Madrigal said.
Aside from Misamis Oriental, the NPA has been active in other Mindanao regions lately.
In a statement, Rigoberto Sanchez, the spokesperson of the NPA’s Regional Operations Command in Southern Mindanao, said rebels conducted tactical offensives that resulted in armed engagements in the four Davao provinces and Compostela Valley, and in North Cotabato.
He claimed the military lost 20 soldiers in the clashes that started last week.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, the spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division – which has jurisdiction over these areas – downplayed Sanchez’s claims as part of NPA propaganda. SFM