BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The series of gunbattles Saturday, 16 January has led to the evacuation of civilians in several upland sub-villages in the Oriental Negros town but Army officials said government agencies are taking care of them.
Major Cenon Pancito III told DNX the series of skirmishes in the sub-village of Batong Buang in the hinterland village of Trinidad took place in a former stronghold of the Communist Party of the Philippines under its 1st Guerrilla Front in Central Negros.
The first gunfight between troopers of the 62nd Infantry Battalion and an undersized platoon of around 20 suspected members of the New People’s Army was in Batong Buang around 1pm followed by a second encounter near the first site around 1:20pm and a third one 20 minutes later.
Cenon cannot confirm yet if there were airstrikes against the fleeing rebels who continue to be hunted today by soldiers.
He could not confirm if close air support missions or strikes were conducted in the area though he confirmed that the Air Force have forward deployed assets here.
DNX has not independently confirmed yet the number of civilians affected by the clashes and if government agencies are taking care of them.
Guihulngan is a fifth class city at least 100 kilometers north here and had long been an operations base of local Communist insurgents.
Former General Raymund Jarque and former police officer Joel Geollegue, who both defected to the underground movement, used to be interviewed in NPA bivouacs deep in the mountains of this city.
It gained national attention since last year due to a series of assassinations of civilians, the latest of which involved a government physician and her husband.
Activists have repeatedly claimed the murders were part of the Duterte government’s counter-insurgency plan, claims that were also repeatedly denied by government.