RETURNING HOME. The remaining evacuees from Barangay Carabalan in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental return home on Wednesday (Oct. 19, 2022) after almost two weeks of staying in various evacuation centers. They were among the more than 3,000 individuals displaced by the series of clashes between troops of the Philippine Army’s 94th Infantry Battalion and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army rebels that started on Oct. 6. (Photo courtesy of Himamaylan City Social Welfare and Development Office)

BACOLOD CITY – Himamaylan City Mayor Rogelio Raymund Tongson Jr. said on Wednesday the Philippine Army has already cleared the encounter sites in Barangay Carabalan, paving the way for the remaining evacuees to go home after almost two weeks of staying in evacuation centers due to a series of clashes between government troops and communist rebels.

“The Philippine Army has informed the Incident Management Team (IMT) that Sitios Medel, Campaya, and Sig-ang have already been cleared,” the mayor said in a statement.

Displaced residents from these areas have sought temporary shelter at the Regional Evacuation Center, Barangay 1 gymnasium and the Carabalan covered court after the armed encounters between troops of the 94th Infantry Battalion and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army rebels started in Sitio Sig-ang on Oct. 6.

“The IMT immediately prepared the needs of the evacuees for their smooth journey back to their respective homes," Tongson added.

These include the distribution of family food packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and assorted donated goods, consultation with the City Health Office team with the distribution of medicines and vitamin supplements, and provision of transportation for the evacuees.

Tongson said the city government and its officials thank all those who have extended their wholehearted support to the evacuees during their almost two-week stay in various evacuation centers, and also asked the people of Himamaylan to continue to work together and help each other to surpass the challenges.

"Please continue praying for our city and our people. God be with us all," he added.

Brig. Gen. Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, confirmed on Wednesday the clearing of the encounter sites in Barangay Carabalan.

"The area has been cleared. We don't want to put the lives of the people at risk," he added.

Those who went home on Wednesday were the remaining evacuees among the estimated 3,000 to 3,500 individuals who have stayed in various evacuation sites from Oct. 6 to 18.

The first batch of the evacuees who returned home on Oct. 16 were residents of Sitios Palayan and Guia of the neighboring Barangay Cabadiangan, who had stayed at Don Florencio Villafranca National High School and Manuel Yulo Elementary School.

They were also joined by some of the evacuees at Carabalan Elementary School and Carabalan covered court.

On Wednesday, classes in Carabalan and Cabadiangan have also resumed after the schools were closed on Oct. 7, a day after the encounters began. (PNA)