BUTUAN CITY, Agusan del Norte, Philippines – More troops were deployed to Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte to sustain pursuit and combat operations against fleeing New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas who engaged soldiers in fierce clashes there Sunday.
“Additional forces were sent in to augment soldiers hunting down the rebels,” Maj. Eugene Osias, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
He declined to give the number of troops deployed.
Government forces in the entire Caraga Region have been placed under full red alert in anticipation of more attacks by the rebels to divert attention from its ongoing combat operations, Osias said.
On Monday, NPA rebels ransacked the farmhouse of retired Col. Alexander Noble in Impasug-ong town in Bukidnon. The rebels took with them a shotgun, a .38-caliber revolver, a mobile phone and P4,000 cash.
Noble is known to have led the uprising of soldiers against the government in Cagayan de Oro City in 1990.
Also on Monday, suspected NPA rebels burned a fuel tanker in Pangantukan town, also in Bukidnon.
Osias could not say if the attacks in Bukidnon had something to do with their operations in Agusan del Norte.
Fighting in Agusan del Norte started on Sunday when government troops tracked down a group of rebels that attacked three mining sites in Taganito, Surigao del Norte, last month.
The clashes triggered mass evacuations of civilians, mostly members of the Mamanwa indigenous people’s group and farmers living inside a vast-resource area known as Zapanta Valley.
The number of displaced individuals who fled their villages have since swollen to 418 from 276 people, the human rights group Karapatan-Caraga said.
Genasque Enriquez, chair of the Unity of Lumad Organizations in Caraga, urged the government to immediately put a halt to military operations.
“The continued military operations only worsen the mass evacuation and humanitarian crisis. This must be stopped,” Enriquez said.
Enriquez also scored the lack of relief goods and emergency assistance supposedly given to civilians displaced by the encounter.
“Evacuees are complaining of inaction by government agencies concerned in terms of relief goods and assistance. Some have not given their meals,” he said.