Tourists asked to stay away from encounter sites

Lieutenant Colonel Joel Benedict Batara, 61st IB commander (Photo Coutesy of 61st IB Facebook)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon 

THE Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion has requested tourists and hikers to stay away from encounter sites and neighboring villages.

Lieutenant Colonel Joel Benedict Batara, 61st IB commander, said their advisory is only temporary while soldiers are conducting pursuit operations against members of the New People’s Army.

He particularly mentioned Barangays Ongyod in Miag-ao and Igcabugao in Igbaras and neighboring villages as potential clash sites.

“We don’t want them to get involved in crossfire in case another encounter would erupt,” he said.

Batara said they will coordinate with the local government units of Igbaras and Miag-ao to advise non-residents to avoid the said areas.

Since Sept. 20, three armed encounters and a harassment incident happened between NPA rebels and members of the 61st Infantry Battalion.

Last Friday’s clash happened at Barangay Ongyod, Miag-ao, Iloilo.

No one was hurt from the government side and at least two from the rebels.

Three days later, suspected NPAs fired at a military detachment in Maasin, Iloilo, which wounded a CAFGU Active Auxiliary.

An hour after the Maasin encounter, the rebels and soldiers clashed anew at Ongyod village.

It left one rebel killed. The body was identified as Vincent Yoverl alias Denden, a member of Squad 1 of the NPA’s Suyak Platoon, Southern Front of the Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay (KR-P).

On Sept. 25, another encounter happened between the 61st IB troops and the NPAs which apparently planned to attack a facility of Century Peak Energy Corp. at Barangay Igcabugao.

Batara identified the group to be led by Melgar Besmanos alias Mar of Sibat (SYP) Platoon of the NPA’s Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay under Nahum Camariosa alias Bebong.

There was no casualty on the government side.

Recovered at the encounter were three Molotov bombs, a rifle grenade, a hand grenade, a blasting cap, two packs of ammonium nitrate, two dynamites, and CPP-NPA t-shirt.