GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Two public schools in Alabel town in Sarangani were not able to start with their formal classes on Monday due to peace and order problems in the area.

Dr. Allan Farnazo, Department of Education (DepEd)- Soccsksargen director, said the opening of classes at the Supan Integrated School and New Canaan Integrated School in Barangay Pag-asa in Alabel were suspended due to the reported presence of armed groups in nearby communities.

Members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were earlier monitored to have massed up in some remote villages in Alabel and Malapatan towns.

The rebels were reportedly seen in communities located at the boundaries of Sarangani and Davao Occidental provinces.

“The situation in the two areas is still volatile because of the movements of the (rebels),” Farnazo said in a radio interview.

Farnazo said they will evaluate anew the situation in two areas within the next few days and decide the appropriate schedule for the opening of the classes there.

He said they will coordinate within the week with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police for proper assessment of the peace and order situation.

“We will immediately proceed with the opening of the classes once we get the assurance from our authorities that it’s already safe for our teachers and school children to report to their schools,” he said.

Earlier this month, around 300 residents of Barangay Upper Suyan in Malapatan were forced to evacuate due to movements of NPA rebels and counter-operations launched by the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB).

Some of the evacuees later transferred to Barangay Pag-asa in Alabel and other nearby villages.

The 73rd IB launched a series of security operations in the hinterlands of Alabel and Malapatan towns since February due to the confirmed presence of NPA rebels in the area.

The operation led to fierce encounters between the 73rd IB and elements from the NPA Front 71 in March and April.

Lieutenant Colonel Felix Ronnie Babac, commander of the 73rd IB, said the security in the area is now under control and they are closely working with the local communities to help normalize the situation there. (PNA)