THE air strike operations in Mt. Province last week, intended to flush out communist rebels, allegedly destroyed livelihood farms and ancestral hunting grounds, an indigenous group reported on Tuesday.
Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) Chairman Piya Macliing Malayao said that the aerial bombings by the Philippine National Police (PNP)- Cordillera allegedly caused collateral damage to the local residents, contrary to the earlier announcements of the regional police.
“They caused damages to the people’s land, livelihood, and environment,” Malayo said. “They also caused immeasurable damage to the psychological and emotional stress on the people. How could police dare say that there are no collateral damages?” she added.
Malayao said that the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) reported that the bombings lasted seven hours. She claimed the group reported massive damage to the area’s communal hunting grounds, forest area, coffee and swidden farms, and watershed areas.
She said that the bombings affected many municipalities in the Cordillera region namely: Sagada, Besao and Bontoc. She said that the residents were from the Fidelisan, Dallic and Bontoc tribes whose livelihoods were mainly farming and hunting.
Reports last week said that the aerial attacks in Benguet were launched by two police helicopters against a suspected rebel hideout on Friday morning. A TV report also said that the attacks was also an operation in clearing landmines in the area. Two soldiers were reportedly killed over the weekend while three more were wounded as the fight with communist rebels continued.
Meanwhile, local government in Sagada suspended all tours to the Bomod-ok Falls due to the ensuing firefight. Residents were also warned to stay away from their farms to avoid the on-going military operations.
KAMP said that air strikes should not be used in military operations to ensure that human rights and international humanitarian laws were upheld.
“It is disastrous to the welfare of the people,” Malayao said. “The local government must heed the human rights of its constituents as a primary concern and condemn these air strikes.” TITUS EDISON CALAUOR