ASSURANCE TO SAFETY. Some 325 residents have returned to their homes in  Sitios Cogon and Alangit in Barangays Natubo and San Nicolas of Jasaan town in Misamis Oriental on Sunday (March 20, 2022), following assurance of their safety by the military. The residents fled on March 18 after government troops clashed in the boundary village of Barangay Plaridel in Claveria town. (Photo courtesy of 58IB)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Some 325 residents from two barangays in the Misamis Oriental town of Jasaan have returned to their homes after an encounter between government troops and communist rebels has ceased.

In a statement released Monday, 1Lt. Vincent Mark Maddul, Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion (58IB) civil-military operations officer, said the residents came from Sitios Cogon and Alangit of Barangays Natubo and San Nicolas, respectively.

"The local government unit (LGU) of Jasaan provided food packs to 140 residents from Sitio Cogon and Sitio Alangit, as well as 185 residents from Barangay San Nicolas, who have all safely returned to their respective homes," Maddul said.

On March 18, the residents fled their homes when 58IB troopers clashed with New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in Barangay Plaridel, Claveria town, which was adjacent to Barangays Natubo and San Nicolas in Jasaan.

Residents started returning to their homes last Sunday after the LGU, together with the 58IB, declared the area as cleared.

Lt. Col. Ricky Canatoy, 58IB commander, assured residents that no harm will happen in their communities after their return.

"You have nothing to worry about. As your Philippine Army will continue to uphold its duty to ensure the safety and protection of every individual in the communities," he said.

3 NPA fighters killed

During the March 18 encounter, the 58IB soldiers, under the operational control of the 402nd Infantry Brigade, were tracking down NPA fighters when an encounter erupted around 7 a.m.

The running gun battles left three NPA fighters dead, identified during follow-up operations as Agay Taquin, Andrew Odiongan, and Joan Pajardo.

The cadavers were turned over to the LGU of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, the place where their families reside.

Seized by 58IB troopers during the series of clashes were a KG9 rifle, an M16 rifle, a Carbine rifle, assorted personal belongings, and documents.

The troops also seized five makeshift tents from NPA hideouts.

Maj. Gen. Wilbur C Mamawag, Army’s 4th Infantry Division commander, vowed they will press the fight against the NPA while ensuring troops' safety to sustain the campaign to end the local communist armed conflict.

Since January this year, the Army-led Joint Task Force Diamond has neutralized 86 NPA fighters and seized 62 high-powered firearms during combat operations and a series of surrenders.

The Communist Party of the Philippines - NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The National Democratic Front (NDF) has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)