Army debunks food blockade in Abra

A CALL for surrender has been made by the government amidst three weeks of ongoing military operations in Malibcong, Abra. 24th Infantry Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Baluga said feelers for surrender have been made by rebel emissaries after a female New People’s Army member yielded to authorities, Friday.

Baluga said the female surrendered and has been brought to the battalion for her safety “We are calling on them to surrender and assure them no one will get hurt.” Baluga said there are over 500 combined forces of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police in the thick of operations in the hinterlands aiming to rid the mountains of rebels. Baluga said a rebel camp has been secured between barangays Mataragan and Lat-ey where documents were confiscated without artillery or rebels owing to early detection of groups in the area. Meanwhile Cordillera youth, Anakbayan hits the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on allegations of a food blockade marring entry of supplies in Malibcong. Anakbayan demanded the government to stop the blockade in war-affected areas in as they claim food scarcity is rising among civilians in the area. Reports from Anakbayan Abra reported army checkpoints were up since March 16, prohibiting the entry of food. The group cited that violations of the international humanitarian laws in the conduct of war, saying civilians are being deprived of their right to aid. Baluga denied the allegations of a food blockade and said supplies for civilians have been freely coming into the area citing deliveries from the provincial government by the governor has reached the villages. Baluga said it is the supply of food of rebels which is fast depleting with three weeks of fighting ongoing, sources from civilians are now hard to come by with the military and police sprawled in the areas. “The elders have told us there are rebels want to surrender and we will welcome them.” Abra is still on full alert after an ambush wounded five policemen three weeks ago, sparking the full battle against the NPA. In the area, a series of bombings was reported by residents with forest fires, allegedly done by the Army, to which they have since denied.

Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on March 27, 2017. By Maria Elena Catajan