From the Sun Star (Feb 24): NPA, military reminded: Minimize collateral damage
MISAMIS Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano has appealed to both the New People’s Army (NPA) fighters and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to minimize the collateral damage of the possible conflict that could affect the indigenous peoples in the Caraga Region fearing its possible spillover in the province.
Emano said that the NPA and AFP forces should be mindful to the human population in the areas.
He said both the armed guerrillas and the military should be sensitive to avoid affecting the lives and livelihood of the people on the ground.
Misamis Oriental shares territorial borders with Agusan Del Norte where there exist several mountain trail corridors to the province.
“I am concerned on the strong possibility of displacement of people once the operations start. Definitely, the human exodus will spillover to our province,” Emano said.
In the last quarter of 2013, Higaonons were displaced after the intense clashes between the NPA fighters and military in Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental.
Forces from the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) and 4th Scout Ranger Battalion (4SRB) have been deployed in Caraga region to quell the growing insurgency in the area.
Upon learning of the deployment, Emano requested he’d be briefed on the extent of the operations so the province can take actions.
He is concerned on the welfare of the people especially the indigenous population in the areas that could be affected by the clashes.
Sister Famita Somogod, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao sub-region, said military operations in the hinterland communities could surely affect the livelihood of the people.
“Working in the rural areas for years, I know how militarization of rural poor communities impact on the lives of the lumads and farmers,” Somogod said.
She added the reinforcement of troops in Caraga region would result to human rights and international humanitarian law violations.
“With the addition of troops, needless to say, violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws are expected to soar,” Somogod said.
She added the military operations would further victimize civilian rural poor populace in areas already punctuated by hunger and illiteracy.
Captain Christian Uy, spokesman of 4ID, said the military forces deployed in the area would only conduct surgical operations to avoid collateral damage.
“We will be conducting surgical missions that result to zero collateral damage,” Uy said.
Uy said surgical operations mean that the military will launch ‘point-to-point’ offensives on specific areas where Maoist fighters are detected.
He assured there would be no collateral damage on their military missions.
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Ricardo Visaya, commander of 4ID, said the additional forces in the area meant the protection of the indigenous people from being recruited and exploited by the NPA.
He said they would determine and solve specific problems of the indigenous people.
“We will also recommend projects to be funded by Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) that will improve their (IP) plight,” Visaya said.
Uy added the deployment of forces in Caraga is intended to deter further attacks from the NPA that declared they would launch more punitive actions this year.
Visaya assured the AFP would safeguard especially the economic zones in the region to continue paving the way for prosperity here in Mindanao.