AFP ops disrupt Abra economy


BAGUIO CITY — On-going military operations between government troops and revolutionaries has greatly disrupted production and further impoverished the communities in Abra.

The 41st Infantry Battalion under the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations are continuously in pursuit of the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province of Abra.

Basically dependent on farm produce and their small-scale mines for food and cash, people of the barrios of Talampak, Pacoc, Buneg and Guinabang in Lacub raised concern about the prolonged government operations that reportedly destroyed farm crops and disrupted continuing farm production activities.

In February last year, there were aerial bombings in the area of Tubtuba, Tubo where 191 bombshells were reportedly dropped. The bombings have frightened the people in the affected and surrounding communities that many of them have preferred to stay away from their farms, reducing harvest in the first cropping season.

Again, sometime in June to July last year, battalion troop movements through the farms of the above mentioned barrios have trampled and destroyed a substantial area of newly planted rice fields with young seedlings for the second cropping further causing reduction in farm produce.

This year’s beginning of the cropping season has again recently been disrupted by an ensuing firefight between these two contending forces.

Stifling local livelihood

Initial interviews and reports made by the Abra Human Rights Alliance (AHRA) indicate that military war initiative in the area has greatly limited the daily economic activities in the communities.

The soldiers has enforced curfew hours to limit movements and facilitate monitoring of the villagers, preventing them from completing farm production schedules.

They have also prevented and limited the community from traveling out of an imposed perimeter, preventing them from checking on the irrigation water flow and from going to their mine areas.

It is an age-old farm practice to go out at dawn and work till mid-morning then go home for brunch to avoid the tropical mid-day heat, and return to work again when it is cooler at mid afternoon until late night.

Under the military impositions the people just move around the village housing area as their fields and mines are further out of the perimeters imposed.

Under these circumstances and for lack of something to do the people tend to deviate to anti-social activities like drinking and gambling.

In the same initial report, war shock was apparent as was indicated that villagers, especially children, have complained of deafness, hysteria and trauma from the loud and prolonged period of gunfire exchange and shelling. # Kathleen T. Okubo

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