CAGAYAN DE ORO -- More than a hundred residents fled their homes in Sitio Lakbangan, Barangay Minalwang, Claveria town in Misamis Oriental on Monday due to ongoing clashes between troops and Maoist rebels.
Ireneo Ubarde, of Misamis Oriental Farmers’ Association-Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (Mofa-KMP), told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone late Monday that the villagers are fearing for their lives, as they have been forced to leave their homes in a hurry.
Ubalde said he has a communication with someone from the evacuees who constantly informs him of their situation on the ground.
He said Lakbangan is a remote area that they have to walk for a day to get to Minalwang proper.
“Sa gisulti sa ako, adunay mga bata, mga tigulang, ug aduna pay masakiton (I was told that there are children, elderlies, and even the sick),” Ubarde said, referring to the 32 families or 152 individuals who are now displaced.
He said the villagers did not bring with them extra clothing, food and other provisions.
Ubarde said the residents decided to leave their homes when they heard cannons being fired.
He said it is most likely they would be brought from Claveria to Cagayan de Oro and will stay here until the situation is favorable.
“There are no reports of casualties from the civilians, though,” he added.
Meanwhile, First Lieutenant Patrick Martinez, acting spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID), confirmed there was an encounter between the military and the New People's Army (NPA) last November 15 and one soldier was injured.
But Martinez could not yet verify if the 8th Infantry Battalion, the military unit stationed in Claveria, has used its artillery during the encounter, or that civilians are being displaced due to the fighting.
He said the operation was part of the effort of the 4ID to rescue Private First Class Marnel Cinches and Private First Class Jerrel Yorong who have been taken captive by the NPA in a village in Bukidnon last August 22.
Martinez said the bursts of noise the civilians heard could be due to the detonation of landmines allegedly put by the NPA rebels in the area.
He said the NPA violates the international humanitarian laws by using the landmines, which could also victimize the residents living there.
He added that if there were indeed displacement of residents, an Army quick response team (QRT) would be dispatched to conduct dialogues with the villagers and to explain to them why the military is conducting combat operations.
But Martinez said the troops make it a point to engage the enemy in the outskirts of the village where there are no civilians living nearby to prevent collateral damage.
Before they confront the NPA, he said they must see to it that everything is planned.
Martinez said the military coordinates with the local government units to facilitate the delivery of basic services to the displaced population. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sunnex)