BACOLOD CITY: Two soldiers were killed while six others were wounded in a series of clashes that started on Thursday, October 6, between troops of the Philippine Army's 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB) and Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) rebels in Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan City, a report by the 94IB on Sunday said.
"Two heroes from the 94IB offered the ultimate sacrifice and six others were wounded during the encounters that sought to make Himamaylan City a safer place to live," Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, battalion commander, said in a statement.
The 94IB is yet to identify the soldiers killed and wounded in action.
The recent clashes happened while the battalion was conducting a pursuit operation against fleeing armed rebels whom they encountered twice already in the village on Thursday.
According to the Philippine Army, the troops were maneuvering to assault the identified enemy position when the insurgents allegedly fired at them.
Close air support was employed to suppress enemy fire and extricate the wounded troops, it said.
Successive deliveries of air support forced the rebels to flee in different directions, the Philippine Army added.
The wounded soldiers are confined in a private hospital here.
Brig. Gen. Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade (303IB), condoled the families of the two fallen soldiers and honored them for their heroism and gallantry.
"Despite the loss of our heroic soldiers, your Army in Negros will remain steadfast in defending the peace against the CPP-NPA," he said.
Four encounters ensued in the remote village up to Saturday afternoon, which forced the evacuation of hundreds of families from Barangay Carabalan and Barangay Cabadiangan and neighboring villages in Binalbagan town.
Data from the Himamaylan City Social Welfare and Development Office showed 436 families or 1,767 individuals have been evacuated.
Classes in these areas were also suspended which started on Friday, October 7.
Relief aid has poured in from priva te groups, including student councils and the Philippine Red Cross, and from other local government units.
In a separate report, the 303IB said the troops first engaged some 20 communist rebels at Sitio Sig-ang around 6 a.m. also on Thursday.
A 40-minute firefight ensued after which the rebels fled, leaving behind personal items and foodstuff.
Another gunbattle took place around 3:45 p.m. also on Thursday followed by another firefight that took place by 5:30 a.m. in Sitio Campayas on Friday.
Pasaporte appealed to residents to stay in the evacuation sites until their villages are completely cleared of the rebels' presence.
Ka Bayani Obrero, spokesman for the National Democratic Front-Negros Island, on October 8 condemned "the relentless bombings" by the Philippine Army.
"We have just received reports from Mount Cansermon Command–NPA South Central Negros Front that Sitio Double Yarding, Barangay Mahalang, in Himamaylan City, was bombed yesterday and this morning. Bombings lasting for 20 minutes were reported this morning as well in Sitio Cunalom and parts of Casipungan, Cambulan, Pangi, and Igaw, all of Barangay Carabalan," a statement from Obrero said.
"The province mourns the loss of our two soldiers who were killed during the encounter in Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan, yesterday morning," said Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson in a statement released on Sunday, October 9.
"I offer my sincerest condolences to the families of our two fallen soldiers. They lost their lives in action, in the pursuit of peace for the province, and for the security of the people of Himamaylan and Negros Occidental," he added.
"What our two heroes did for the country, the province and our people is the highest form of bravery, sacrifice, and patriotism that we must always honor and must never forget," said Lacson.
"We also pray for the speedy recovery of our six wounded soldiers and for the fulfillment of genuine peace and harmony in Negros Occidental," he added.
Himamaylan City Mayor Raymund Tongson condemned "the ongoing atrocities in Barangay Carabalan," citing "the untold hardships, physically, emotionally, psychologically, experienced by our people."
"The exchanges of gunfire have put their lives in great danger, disrupted their livelihood, and disturbed the peaceful existence of our constituents and their families in these two villages, forcing them to leave their houses and means of livelihood and seek temporary shelter in various evacuation centers," Tongson said.
He added that Himamaylan "wants peace and progress to reign in our city. Thus, the city government of Himamaylan continues to work for its betterment and development, which will redound to the benefit of our people."
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