Over 400 evacuated; Toboso, Escalante residents flee homes amid airstrikes vs. NPA 

Posted by watchmen
February 24, 2024
Posted in HEADLINE

By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga

More than 400 residents in Negros Occidental’s Toboso town and Escalante City were evacuated as the Philippine Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion (79IB) performed airstrikes against remnants of the dismantled New People’s Army (NPA) on Thursday night, February 22.

Lt. Colonel Jjay Javines, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, said they called for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in Agusta Westland AW109 attack helicopters to conduct air support missions against NPA’s Northern Negros Front at Sitio Mansulao in Escalante’s Barangay Pinapugasan, bordering Toboso, at 7:35 p.m.

Videos posted on social media showed PAF choppers striking rebel positions with machine guns and rocket fire.

The 79IB also pounded the area using forward guns.

Javines said a risk assessment was made prior to the strikes to prevent any possibility of civilian casualties.

A total of eight clashes have taken place in northern Negros since Wednesday, February 21, after the 79IB received information that the suspected NPA rebels were extorting food and supplies from local residents.

Three suspected NPA rebels lost their lives in the initial encounter, while four soldiers, including a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit, were wounded.



In Toboso, more than 400 residents of Barangay San Isidro’s Sitios Mainit and Mansulao were evacuated due to airstrikes.

Local officials provided hot meals for the evacuees, as well as food bags containing rice, canned goods and noodles.

Toboso Councilor Richard Jaojoco said they are expecting more residents coming from far-flung areas near the encounter site to evacuate.

He said that around 8:00 a.m. yesterday, he saw several PAF helicopters still circling the area.

In Escalante, Pinapugasan village chief Edgar Rapana said the airstrikes caused alarm among the local residents, as some fled their homes.

They were brought to the local evacuation center.

“We cannot see the helicopters because it was dark. They were not using any lights. However, we know they were above us because of the noise and the tracers they create whenever they fire their weapons,” Rapana said.

He added that the airstrikes lasted between 10 and 15 minutes.

As of press time, the village officials are still trying to get the exact number of evacuees.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, together with the Escalante Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, delivered food, medical supplies, mosquito nets, and blankets to the affected residents.

Rapana said the evacuees are barred from returning to their homes unless the 79IB deems the area safe.

While the situation for the rest of the night went quiet, he ordered residents to remain in their homes.


Classes suspended

Due to the escalating anti-insurgency operations, Toboso Mayor Maddonah Jaojoco declared a suspension of classes at all levels in the town late Thursday night until further notice.

Escalante Mayor Melecio Yap, Jr. also declared a suspension of classes for elementary, junior and senior high schools in Barangays Libertad, Pinapugasan, Binaguiohan, Paitan, Dian-ay, Magsaysay, Malasibog, and Tamlang./DGB, WDJ




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