More than a hundred families from two villages in Pilar town in Abra fled their homes after government troopers
fought with communist rebels before noon and lasted until dusk Tuesday along the borders of Pilar town in Abra and Sta. Maria town in Ilocos Sur. Pilar, Abra mayor Tyrone Beroña said 137 families (483 individuals) are now temporarily staying at the municipal gym while 6 families (23 individuals) sought refuge with their relatives.

All evacuees were immediately provided with emergency and relief goods, Mayor Beroña said, adding, ‘additional relief goods and services for the evacuees from DSWD had been fetched Tuesday night from the provincial capital Bangued in Abra.’ The DSWD Cordillera regional office has also been alerted since Tuesday night for possible augmentation of services and goods for the evacuees, who might not still go home for the next couple of days while the security situation in the area had not become stable.

Beroña, who also suspended classes in elementary and high school levels on Wednesday said, “I will make sure that our towns people are safe (before returning to their homes).”  Army Major Rigor Pamittan, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division, soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 50th Infantry Battalion stumbled into some 15 communist rebels from the Kilusang Larangang GerilyaNorth Abra of the Ilocos Cordillera Regional Committee of the CPP-NPA at around 11:50AM Tuesday at a mountainous location in barangay Nagcanasan, Pilar after a resident earlier tipped off about rebel movement in the village.

A running gunbattle ensued injuring Army Corporal Mark Tadeo from Pilar town while casualties from the rebel side were not known. Beroña suspected that the rebels were only on transit passing through his town from nearby Sallapadan town, also in Abra towards Ilocos Sur, which several years ago had been declared rebelfree. An aerial strike was conducted by Philippine Air Force assets later in the afternoon, Pamittan said while confirming that Tuesday’s firefight was already the fifth skirmish between government troops and rebels this year in the province. “We will pounce on them (rebels),” Pamittan vowed, though he urged the remaining rebels of KLG-North Abra who has thinned in numbers to only no more than 20, to give up instead.

Artemio A. Dumlao/ABN

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