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Bukidnon villagers flee as attacks vs NPAs continues

by Vener Malabanan Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2006 at 6:32 PM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Pesante-USA reprints the latest news from the Phil.Star. dated June 27 about the incrased AFP counter-insurgency operations in Central Mindanao. As of the latest news. eight villagaes have been evacuated due to the heavy militarization in the area as the AFP launched ground and air attacks against the NPA in Bukidnon. the central highland area of Northern Mindanao.

Bukidnon villagers flee as attacks vs NPAs continues

By Ben Serrano

The Philippine Star 06/28/2006

MALAYBALAY CITY — More residents from eight Upper Pulangi barangays near Mt. Pantaron where communist rebels were reportedly hiding have fled their homes as the military is reportedly ready to launch air and ground attacks against the New People’s Army (NPA).

Upper Pulangi barangays include Barangay Busdi, the last hinterland barangay of Malaybalay City which is located right at the boundary of the province of Agusan del Sur, Kulaman, Silae, Mandelasa, Zamboanguita, St. Peter, Kabwakan and Magsolo.

As of press time, the Malaybalay City Social Welfare Office reported that evacuees have temporarily sought shelter in public schools, barangay halls and houses of relatives in Barangays Kulaman, St. Peter, Busdi and Zamboanguita. Classes were suspended.

"This is of course not including evacuees from sitios in farflung areas who have not reported to our office yet because of the difficulty of traveling in bad weather. We are hoping that barangay officials in the affected barangays will report to us soon," Leah Tadio, social welfare staff of the Malaybalay City Social Welfare Office told The STAR.

The local government of Malaybalay City has already dispatched relief operations team to provide the basic needs of evacuees such as food, clothing and medicine.

Yesterday, the City Welfare Office have sent sacks of rice, coffee, noodles and sardines to Barangay Kulaman some 62 kilometers northwest of this city after Barangay Captain Zaldy Singatao personally sought assistance from Malaybalay City Mayor Dr. Florencio Flores.

Singatao said about some 36 families from different sitios of Barangay Kulaman have temporarily sought shelter at the Barangay Hall while some opted to stay temporarily at their relatives’ houses.

Barangay Captain Domingo Hingpit of Barangay St. Peter claimed he converted the St. Peter Elementary School into a temporarily shelter of the more than 50 families or about 197 persons who started to flee their respective homes since last week.

Barangay Captain Felix Amores of Zamboanguita, which has the largest number of evacuees, claimed that as of yesterday there are about 76 families or about 347 persons staying at designated evacuation centers in his barangay while some he claimed opted to stay at relatives’ houses but are getting their daily consumption from the barangay office.

Barangay officials have expressed concern that since the rainy season has started the children may get sick.

Days of on and off fighting between government troops and communist rebels led to the capture of two huge NPA camps in Bukidnon and Northern Samar late last week.

Army troops from the 403rd Brigade captured an NPA camp in Sition Bendum, Barangay Busdi in the outskirts of Malaybalay City on Thursday.

Lt. Col Francisco Simbajon, spokesman of he Army’s 4th Infantry Division said the rebels abandoned the camp after a brief but intense gunbattle.

Another rebel satellite camp was discovered about 200 meters away from the main camp, Simbajon said.

Simbajon said the rebels who occupied the camp were behind the torching of a fleet of heavy equipment owned by the Concepcion Basic Builders based here.

Col. Ricardo Morales, 403rd IB Commanding Officer based here in Camp Osito Bahi-an said that government troopers will continue their assault until NPA rebels holding fortified camps will be dislodged from their camps.

"We want this to be over as soon as possible and we are prepared to continue as long as necessary until the NPA learns its lesson to leave government projects alone," Morales said.

Capt. Romeo Peria, 403rd IB spokesman and Civilian Military Officer, said bad weather conditions due to heavy rains in the area temporarily grounded two MG520 gunship of the Philippine Air Force and halted military operations.

At the Barangay Plaza in Barangay Zamboanguita, which is 45 kilometers away from this city, some operatives of the 26th IB headed by its Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Benjamen Madrigal and the 4th ID Division Reconnaisance Company have installed a temporary camp at the plaza. They also mounted a howitzer cannon which can bombard mountain ranges of Pantaron where the NPA rebels were reportedly holding a fortified camp.

Worried over the situation at the Upper Pulangi barangays, Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr. plans to convene the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) soon to assess the current situation in the areas affected.

Zubiri said the communist rebels who are making trouble in the province are not actually from Bukidnon but from nearby provinces of Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte.

The military offensive against the rebels in the area started on June 10 after communist rebels belonging to the Reczan Perez Command of Front Committee 89 of the CPP/NPA/NDF burned at least 11 heavy equipment of the construction firm Concepcion Basic Builders Inc. (CBBI) doing construction works of a road and bridge projects in Barangays Zamboanguita and Silae, all in Malaybalay City last June 6.

The military has so far overrun smaller satellite camps and bunkers but not the NPA main camps situated along Mt. Pantaron mountain ranges. — With reports from Jaime Laude, Richel Umel

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