Hundreds of families flee as NPA-gov’t clash in Batangas continues
SAN PEDRO CITY — Hundreds of families were forced to leave their homes as skirmishes between the government troops and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) continued Monday, spilling over from Sunday’s encounter in a suspected rebel camp in the upland village of Batangas City.
Col. Arnulfo Burgos, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, said they deployed two more teams of soldiers early Monday to run after “remnants” of the rebel group fleeing from the area. The Philippine Air Force has launched a series of airstrikes in the vicinity of Mt. Banoy in Barangay (village) Talumpok Silangan to thwart “improvised explosive devices” possibly set up by the rebels.
The firefight erupted around 9 a.m. Sunday in the remote Talumpok Silangan, about an hour and a half land travel from the Batangas City center. The army reported at least one rebel killed but claimed that many others were wounded, while one was hurt from the government side as of Monday morning.
Families residing around the area started to flee their homes since Sunday evening.
Jerson Sanchez of the city government’s public information office said 50 families are currently seeking shelter in Barangay Cumba and 87 families are in Barangay Talahib Pandayan.
“The city mayor (Beverly Dimacuha) ordered us to provide for the evacuees’ basic needs like food and medicines,” Sanchez said.
The city government has also suspended classes in 15 Batangas schools until Tuesday. These are the elementary schools of Tibig, Cumba, Talahib Pandayan, Talahib Pandayan National High School, elementary schools in Talahib Payapa, Sto. Domingo, Maruclap, Conde Itaas, Talumpok Proper, Talumpok Silangan, Talumpok National High School, elementary schools of Haligue Silangan, Haligue Kanluran, Sto. Niño and the Sto. Niño National High School.
“We’ll have to check (the situation) first if classes may resume by Wednesday,” Sanchez said.
“That portion (where the encounter took place) is part of a (mountain) ridge you’ll probably ask yourself: ‘Are there really people living here?’ But yes, there are,” Burgos said by phone from the Fernando Air Base in Lipa City.
Members of the Air Force 730th Combat Group had conducted “security operations” for the last three days that led them to the supposed enemy lair. Burgos said they had received prior reports from villagers about the rebels’ presence.
Security was tightened on major roads and sea ports in Batangas to apprehend fleeing rebels.
Sanchez, meanwhile, said that the situation remains calm and normal in the Batangas City proper. /je
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