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Folks evacuated, classes suspended as soldiers, NPA rebels clash in remote Negros towns

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BACOLOD CITY — Almost 700 residents in the remote villages of two northern Negros localities were evacuated following an encounter between government troops and communist rebels on Thursday night.

A report from the Philippine Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion (IB) on Friday afternoon stated that 381 individuals sought shelter at the Doña Rosorio Baldevia Elementary School in Sitio Sta. Ana, Barangay Mabini, Escalante City.

In the adjacent Toboso town, 301 persons were evacuated to San Jose National High School in Barangay San Jose.

Following the incident, Toboso Mayor Richard Jaojoco issued an executive order declaring the suspension of classes on Friday in 11 public elementary and high schools located in the vicinity and neighboring villages of Barangay Jose.

Lt. Col. Emelito Thaddeus Logan, commanding officer of 79IB, said the soldiers encountered about 10 New People’s Army (NPA) fighters in Sitio Fuentes, Barangay Mabini, Escalante City around 7:15 p.m. on Thursday.

He said the gun battle lasted for about 10 minutes after which the rebels fled, with around three or four of them believed injured as indicated in the bloodstains found.

Logan added that during the clearing and pursuit operations, an NPA member surrendered but has yet to be identified.

The troops also recovered medicines worth at least PHP300,000 and a record book containing an inventory of the items along with several boxes of assorted canned goods.

“The recovered medicines and canned goods left by the NPAs during the encounter may have come from their extortion activities or from support they are receiving from someone,” Logan said.

A joint Quick Reaction Team led by Logan and Major Win-Love Bag-ao, commander of 33rd Civil-Military Operations Company, along with Mayor Jaojoco and Escalante City Mayor Eddie Montero distributed relief goods and conducted a dialogue with the affected residents. (PNA)