MANILA— The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has requested rebel forces not to attack soldiers tasked to bring aid to victims of the earthquake that hit Surigao del Norte province Friday night.
“We urge you not to attack our soldiers, or in any other way disrupt the AFP’s rescue and rehabilitation activities for our people,” AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said Saturday.
“Allow the soldiers every opportunity to help the victims of the earthquake.”
Government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) are again engaged in combat following the rebels’ announcement that they were withdrawing their ceasefire effective February 10.
Prior this date, the NPA rebels reportedly conducted a series of unprovoked attacks against unarmed soldiers, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate the government’s ceasefire and peace talks with the insurgents.
Following the magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Surigao del Norte, 4th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. immediately deployed his men to assist the victims of the quake and conduct initial damage assessment for the use of national and local governments.
Initial reports reaching his headquarters in Cagayan de Oro indicated that:
– The San Nicolas bridge leading to San Francisco and Malimono municipalities was severely damaged and was rendered impassable;
– Surigao City is experiencing a power outage;
– The airport is non-operational due to damages on its runway;
– Communities were evacuating to the provincial capitol; and
– Some buildings reportedly collapsed.
Meanwhile, 30th Infantry Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Rico Amaro, immediately coordinated with the respective risk reduction and management offices of Surigao del Norte and Surigao City for disaster response operations.
“Troops, the vehicle and the ambulance of the 30th Infantry Battalion were prepositioned for casualty evacuation and the evacuation of affected families,” Arevalo added.
At about 7 a.m. Saturday, 402nd Infantry Brigade head, Col. Franco Nemesio Gacal, proceeded to Surigao City for a disaster response emergency meeting at the provincial capitol of Surigao del Norte.
“(The headquarters of the) 402nd Infantry Brigade alerted additional troops and vehicles for possible complementary disaster response operations in the affected areas in Surigao del Norte,” Arevalo stressed.
“Continue to carry out your duties and be ready to embark on the task of assisting local and national governments. But be on the look out for those who might be out to sabotage your rescue and rehabilitation efforts,” AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año reminded his soldiers.