Surigao villagers fear escalation of conflict

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/04 November) – Residents of a barangay in Bacuag town in Surigao del Norte expressed fears of a possible escalation of conflict after clashes between government forces and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Sunday.

The encounters occurred in Sitio Little Baguio in Barangay Payapag, Bacuag and left two soldiers killed.

Some 30 NPA rebels first clashed with government troops at around 8:00 p.m. on All Souls Day leaving one soldier killed, Lt. Colonel Arsenio Sadural, commanding officer of the 30th Infantry Battalion told MindaNews on Monday evening.

Sadural said the rebels belong to the Sandatahang Platun Pampropaganda of Guerrilla Front Committee 16.

Another encounter erupted at 4:00 p.m. on the same day in the same place killing one soldier and wounding two others, he added.

Some villagers said they might be forced to evacuate if the hostilities escalated.

“I hope they should stop this because we might be caught in the crossfire,” John Delgado, a farmer from Bacuag said in a text message.

“Unta wala na gira kay hasol kaayo mag bakwit, wala bay ihatag nga maayo ana,” (I hope there will no longer be war because evacuating will do us no good) Dadoy Horod, a Mamanwa from Bacuag said.

Bacuag Mayor Sheila Mae Orquina-Cebedo told MindaNews Monday evening via text message that she received no reports of evacuation after the clashes.

“We express our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of our slain comrades. They were killed while protecting the Filipino people in pursuit for peace and development in the area,” Sadural, referring to the slain soldiers, said.

“They offered their lives for the sake of the people of Surigao Del Norte. They will always be remembered as true heroes and their sacrifices will never be in vain,” he added. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)