June 22, 2024

A total of 426 individuals were evacuated in three adjacent barangays in Pilar, Abra and Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur on April 2 due to a fierce gunfight between the government forces and the New People’s Army in Barangay Nagcanasan, Pilar, Abra.

In a report by the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Pilar, 97 families with 339 individuals evacuated from Barangays Nagcanasan and Gapang in Pilar while 21 families with 87 individuals were evacuated from Barangay Balasuioan in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur and temporarily housed at the Poblacion gym in Pilar.

The eight-hour gunfight erupted between the Kilusang Larangang Guerilla (KLG) North-Abra and the military around 11 a.m. of April 2 that caused school and work suspensions. 

Maj. Bryan Albano of the 501st Infantry Brigade said the incident resulted in one injured soldier, namely Cpl. Markson Tadeo, who was airlifted from the scene and is now in stable condition.

In a press statement, Albano said the army implemented a three-month campaign against the armed rebels leading to the encounter. On April 4, the army seized various improvised explosive devices, homemade grenades, and other high-caliber firearms and ammunition at the campsite of the rebels.

He said the KLG North-Abra has around 30 members and are under the Ilocos Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.     

The whereabouts of the NPA were said to have come from the tip of community members which resulted in the military operations.

Albano urged for the continuous cooperation of the community in reporting any incidents that may lead to the whereabouts of the rebel groups as well as the peaceful and voluntary surrender of the rebel group’s members to return to the government and join the society.

The Ilocos Human Rights Alliance, meanwhile, called on the military and NPA to ensure the safety of civilians and uphold International Humanitarian Law, which guarantees that human rights are protected even in times of war. The group also appealed to the military to stop the airstrikes.

The Philippine Red Cross has also dispatched a group of workers to provide evacuees relief aid, child-friendly spaces, a first-aid station, and psychosocial support. – Ofelia C. Empian