LAOAG CITY (March 30) – At least two upland municipalities in the province of Ilocos Norte have reports of alleged sightings of suspected New People’s Army guerillas somewhere in remote mountainous areas of said towns, army officials said.
Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias, commanding officer of the Army’s 81st Infantry Battalion based in Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur, confirmed during the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting held in Ilocos Norte last week that NPA sightings were reported in Barangay Sta. Ana, Solsona town and in Barangay Sto. Niño of nearby Nueva Era town, both located in the eastern part of the province.
During the PPOC meeting chaired by Gov. Imee R. Marcos, Lt. Col. Osias gave no further information, whether, these NPA rebels belong to the Apayao group or Abra group.
He said the rebels probably withdrew and fled to the upland areas of Ilocos Norte to avoid the government forces’ hot pursuit operation against them after they (NPAs) attacked the police station in Malibcong, Abra recently.
He added that this group of 30 NPA rebels may be hiding here as an offshoot of the Malibcong , Abra encounter, hence, they were spotted in and out of the tri-boundaries of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Abra.
The Army battalion commander assuaged the people’s fear saying that the there is no cause to be scared of as he vowed that the govenmentforces under his command will help maintain peace and order in the area.
He assured the provincial officials of Ilocos Norte that “more army troopers will be sent in the area to safeguard the province from any communist insurgents.
As this developed, Gov. Marcos appealed to the Army not to reduce the number of troopers assigned in the province saying that “it is very clear that it is not the time to reduce (Army) deployment kasi dumadami ang sightings.”
“Here in the province, we have very critical infrastructures such as windmills as well as the (National Grid) transmission lines,” the governor added.
At present, some 5,000 army troops are deployed in Northern Luzon, it was learned.
Meanwhile, Solsona Mayor Alex Calucag confirmed that there were reports of suspected NPAs roaming in his town noting that even before the Army validated it, he already received reports from his townmates about the presence of a heavily-armed group believed to be dissidents in some remote villages in Solsona.
On the other hand, Nueva Era Mayor Caroline Garvida, contradicted the alleged NPA sighting reports in her town as alleged by the Army officials.
She said that she has not received personally any reports of NPA sightings from any barangay officials in her town based on her regular visits to different rural barangays.
During the said PPOC meeting, Nueva Era Vice Mayor Aldrin Garvida urged the concerned Army officials to re-validate the alleged NPA sighting reports in their town stating that such report may adversely affect their local tourism industry.(Tri-media reports)