700 persons displaced by Army-rebel clash

Mayor Melecio Yap Jr. of Escalante City, Negros Occidental and Lieutenant Colonel Emelito Thaddeus Logan, commander of Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion, talk to one of the evacuees at an evacuation center following a clash between the military and suspected NPAs at Barangay Paitan over the weekend. (Photo courtesy of 79th IB)

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – At least 700 persons were displaced by the deadly clash between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Escalante City last week

Lt. Colonel Emelito Thaddeus Logan, 79th Infantry Battalion (79IB) commander, said 109 families or 329 individuals were evacuated to the Paitan Elementary School at Barangay Paitan.

An additional 91 families or 371 individuals, meanwhile, fled to the Libertad Elementary School in the neighboring Barangay Libertad.

Logan said the evacuees were mostly residents of Sitios Tabunok and Mina-oco in the said barangay.

He added that the Army, the local government of Escalante City, and the provincial government of Negros Occidental provided relief goods and free medical consultation to the evacuees.

The displaced individuals were also given free stress debriefing.

Logan said the displaced families will remain in the evacuation centers until the area is declared safe and cleared of any insurgents.

Escalante City Mayor Melecio Yap, Jr., meanwhile, suspended classes in the affected areas until government forces have finished their clearing operations.

Earlier on Saturday, an undetermined number of NPA members were killed following a gun battle with elements of the Philippine Army 79th Infantry Battalion (79IB) in Escalante City’s Sitio Morino, located in the city’s Barangay Paitan.

During the exchange, rebel forces allegedly exploded several anti-personnel mines before withdrawing to nearby Sitio Sampinit in the same barangay.

Three soldiers, identified as Corporals Homer Aniversario, Ronald Tuhao, and Jerald Caluyo, were slightly wounded and were immediately rushed to the hospital for treatment.

Government forces also seized an anti-personnel mine, subversive documents and lecture materials, a hammock, an NPA cap, and the rebels’ personal belongings.