CITY OF CALAPAN, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines — Almost 800 residents were displaced by a series of clashes between security forces and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Victoria town in Oriental Mindoro.
Tanie Malitao, municipal disaster risk and reduction management officer, said in a phone interview on Friday that the refugees were from the village of San Cristobal and nearby mountainous barangays of Concepcion, Loyal, San Antonio and Villa Cerveza.
The initial report of disaster responders showed 215 families, or a total of 777 individuals, evacuated to temporary shelters at the San Cristobal covered court, Loyal eco-park and San Antonio basketball court.
Traumatized by war
Malitao said that those in San Cristobal and Loyal stayed at the evacuation centers while those from San Antonio went to their residences during the day but returned at night.
“They are traumatized, and with the provincial social welfare office, we have intervened with debriefing sessions,” Malitao said.
The military reported that at least five people have already died from the series of clashes.
The fifth and latest fatality, according to a military report on Thursday, was identified as Mervin Malucon, an alleged NPA soldier.
Malucon was killed in the second of two encounters on Wednesday noon at Sitio Pamuwisan at Loyal in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. Soldiers also recovered an M14 rifle, improvised explosives and six cellphones from the clash site.
But Capt. Patrick Jay Retumban, spokesperson of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said another clash erupted in the same village around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Another clash was also recorded by the military around the same time in Villa Cerveza.
“Our operations are continuing, without let up. Good thing is we are able to track them down,” Retumban said in a message to the Inquirer.
The clashes came after the Army’s 76th Infantry Battalion pursued a band of about 30 rebels, who were probably the same group encountered in Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro, on June 29, Retumban said.
While the situation was calm on Saturday, Malitao said “the situation [was] a human-induced calamity because there had been a displacement.”
Meanwhile, relief assistance had been pouring in for the evacuees.
Malitao said the Victoria town government, provincial government and cause-oriented group Sambayanan extended help in the form of rice, coffee, canned goods, soap, milk, diapers, toothbrush and toothpaste.
The clashes and subsequent evacuations affected people’s livelihood in the town which is considered as the “fruit basket” of Oriental Mindoro.