Government troops assured on Monday the safety and security of residents in remote communities of Polomolok, South Cotabato amid the ongoing operations against an Islamic State-inspired local terrorist group.
Lt. Col. Zandro Alvez, commanding officer of the Army’s 5th Special Forces (SF) Battalion, issued the assurance as some 97 residents from parts of Barangay Lumakil evacuated over the weekend after clashes erupted between their troops and a group of bandits under the Dawlah Islamiya-Maguid Group.
He said the residents in nearby communities left their homes amid the exchange of gunfire between their forces and the bandits on Saturday.
Alvez said they launched the operation following reports from concerned residents regarding the presence in the area of members of the Dawlah Islamiya-Maguid Group.
He said the affected residents evacuated to nearby Barangays Lapu and Bentung as they reportedly feared for their safety.
Troops from the 10th SF Company responded to the area to ensure the safety and security of the evacuees as well as other residents, he said.
“We assured them that they should not worry or fear for their safety from the ongoing operations,” Alvez said in a statement.
Mercy Alonzo, Barangay Lapu chairperson, said affected residents remained at the evacuation center in the barangay gymnasium as of Monday morning.
She said they were still waiting for clearance from the 5th Special Forces so they can facilitate the return of the evacuees to their homes in Puroks 1, 2 and 3.
“None of them were hurt, they just panicked and immediately fled after hearing the gunfire,” she said in a radio interview.
Alonzo said the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the municipal government of Polomolok, and several local officials have brought food and relief assistance to the evacuees.
Alvez said the 10th SF Company led by Capt. Harold Layan also delivered relief goods composed of rice packs, bread, noodles and canned goods.
He reiterated that their operations against local terrorist groups will continue to protect residents and communities in the area.
“We are ready to stake our lives just to ensure the safety of every resident against anyone with ill intentions and those plotting to sow conflict and terror, and disrupt the peaceful lives of innocent civilians,” he said.