ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 19 Sept) – The Armed Forces suffered its first officer casualty in the raging conflict here, now on its 11th day, during clearing operations at Barangay Santa Barbara early this morning.
The casualty was identified as Army 1Lt. John Kristopher Rama, of the Philippine Military Academy class 2008.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP spokesman, said that as of Thursday, 12 soldiers have already died and 103 others wounded in the conflict.
The Crisis Management Committee, meanwhile, reported that three policemen have been killed in action and 13 others wounded. On the other hand, 70 MNLF members have been arrested and 78 identified as casualties.
City Information Officer Sheila Covarrubias told MindaNews that while clearing operations are being conducted by soldiers and policemen in affected communities, another fire hit Rio Hondo, a coastal barangay, and the number of burned houses remains undetermined as of press time
Since the armed conflict began on Sept. 9, Zamboanga City – the socio-economic and tourism hub in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao – has been experiencing a temporary stoppage in its economic operations.
Across more than 60evacuation centers, Philippine government agencies, socio-civic, and non-government organizations have been extending assistance and coordinating with various donors whether locally or outside the city.
As of Wednesday, more than 82,000 residents across the different evacuation centers have been displaced because of the war in six coastal villages: Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Mampang, Talon-Talon, Rio Hondo, and Mariki. Other coastal barangays that are affected as a result of the massive displacement and forced evacuation are Arena Blanco, Taluksangay, and Tictabon Island.
Makeshift hospitals and emergency health centers have been put up in different key areas. Zamboanga City Red Cross Administrator Victor Liozo Jr. assured MindaNews that “we have enough blood supply.”