Fulfilling one of its declared missions to assist Filipinos affected by incidents of armed conflict, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through its Field Office in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) has provided assistance to civilians whose safety were endangered when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) overran a suspected New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Sitio Pinugao, Barangay Namal, Asipulo, Ifugao, during an encounter on February 12.
According to a report submitted by Regional Director Janet P. Armas of DSWD CAR, 98 families were affected by the incident, which breaks down to 398 individuals (201 males and 197 females); 107 of them are children.
The Social Welfare and Development (SWAD) office has so far provided the individuals with 500 food packs; 127 mats; 105 blankets; 60 dignity kits. Other municipalities and community leaders have also extended assistance: Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat donated P15,000; while the municipality of Lamut, Ifugao gave 10 sacks of rice as well as used clothing.
The DSWD Central Office is also set to airlift flannel blankets to Ifugao to help the residents who were forced to evacuate because of the skirmish.
There are currently five evacuation centers open to accommodate the civilians who were forced to leave their homes and communities to avoid getting caught in the crossfire of the AFP and the NPA. These are Namal Elementary School; facilities in Sitio Bahgit, Sitio Nanlapunan, and Sitio Ulnoy; and Sitio Pebet Day Care Center.
There has also been one reported death of a senior citizen; it is said that he died because of exposure as he refused to join the others in the evacuation centers. His body has since been secured and now lies in state in one of the evacuation centers, but his identity has yet to be determined as of this writing.
In the meantime, there are also reports that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who hail from Ifugao are also giving donations to help the evacuees of the armed skirmish.
DSWD Sec. Judy M. Taguiwalo said that it was important that efforts be continuously made to address the impact of incidents of armed conflict on civilians and their communities and to make sure that no civilians get caught in the crossfire. She said that the latest incidents of armed confrontations between the AFP and the NPA are very compelling reasons that justify the resumption of the formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“We must all support calls for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Incidents of armed conflict more often than not lead to violations against the rights of civilians; their safety, security, and very lives are put into danger, and the normal flow of their lives spent mainly on pursuing their respective means of livelihood are disrupted. Children are also especially vulnerable, as well as senior citizens. If and when the peace talks continue, there will be higher chances for peace to take root in our country and hopefully fewer incidents of armed skirmishes,” she said.
She also lauded the coordination of the LGUs and the DSWD to assist the affected Filipinos. “Cooperation and coordination in efforts to assist those affected by armed conflict are important. Emergency situations created by incidents of armed conflict incidents require immediate responses, and it is highly commendable that our LGU leaders responded swiftly to provide for the needs of the evacuees,” she said.