Mt. Province residents affected by NPA-gov't clash to get aid

By Liza Agoot

April 6, 2019, 3:08 pm

BAUKO, Mountain Province--- Mayor Abraham Akilit on Friday said they will start giving psychological intervention to residents in the five villages here, where government troops and rebels clashed for several days.

"May mga na-trauma na kailangan i-debrief sila (There were those traumatized who need to be debriefed). This morning they had a meeting to plan out how to do the debriefing of Balintaugan, Bila, Bagnen proper, Bagnen Oriente, Poblacion and Abatan barangays," Akilit said.

The mayor said he ordered all departments in the local government to start the urgent plan to conduct the debriefing of over 1,000 residents traumatized due to the several days of the encounter.

The debriefing will done by the municipal social work office, with the municipal health office and the Department of Health.

The mayor said it is the first time that the people of Bauko experienced a firefight.

"This is the first time na nakarinig sila ng ganun na firefight, malalakas na weaponry ang nagamit saka mahaba pa ang oras na nagbabakbakan. Ang mga tao they were afraid. They are still in the state of recovery (This is the first time they heard that kind of gunfight, high powered weapons used and long hours of exchange of gunfire),” the mayor said.

"We need to give them something to do to forget this event,” he added.

Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) regional director, Brig. Gen. Israel Ephraim Dickson, earlier told reporters that the fighting between government troops and the rebels started on March 29, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the NPA.

A policeman was killed while another one was injured, prompting the PNP leadership to order a pursuit operation against the fleeing rebels.

During the pursuit operations, another policeman was killed and nine others were injured during an anti-personnel mine (APM) explosion.

Akilit said the fighting halted all tourism activities, which is the source of additional income of residents in the town. All farming activities have also been temporarily prohibited.

“They [residents] have not gone back to their normal activities we have still canceled their going to the ricefields kasi di natin alam kung may biglang putukan ay maiwasan ang casualty (because we don’t know if there will still be a firefight and we want to avoid any casualty),” he said.

Mark Na-oy, Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (LDRRMC) officer-in-charge said food packs, family packs and hygiene kits from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have been distributed to the residents after the firefight subsided.

Akilit said a number of residents from the five barangays, especially in Sitio Cotcot, Barangay Poblacion, were forced to leave their homes when the APM that injured several policemen exploded.

While there is no update on the military and police operations, Akilit expressed confidence that the government troops are still clearing the hinterlands of APMs.

He said he asked the police and the military to sweep the hinterlands of APM, ensuring that there are no explosives left in the area.

Call for peace

“Let us have peace in Bauko,” Akilit said, as he called on both the military and the police, as well as the rebels, not to bring their firearms to the town.

Walang armado, mag karate na lang sila mas maganda pa yan kesa may dalang baril na pag maglalaban sila may madadamay (If they come here, they should not be armed, they can use karate. That is better because if they fight with guns, it is the people who are affected),” the mayor said.

Akilit added that he is still studying the proposal of some sectors to declare Bauko as a peace zone.

On March 5, checkpoints were set up in Bauko and some parts of the national highway in Halsema leading to capital town in Bontoc to ensure public's safety and security. (PNA)