By VENMAR CECILLE
MANILA – The Philippine military has threatened to bomb communities in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal, prompting about 250 families to leave their homes, Karapatan – Rizal reported.
A resident detailed to Karapatan – Rizal on April 5 that they were being forcefully evacuated from their homes. A similar report was also gathered on April 6, particularly from barangay Mascap.
The threat is allegedly related to the consecutive armed encounters between the 80th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the New People’s Army (NPA) from March 31 until April 2.
Residents fear losing their sources of livelihood as soldiers prevented them from returning to their houses, leaving their crops and livestock unattended.
Karapatan – Rizal documented that 80 families have already evacuated from barangay Mascap, and 75 families from barangay Puray. Meanwhile, 90 families from barangay San Rafael were also affected.
The affected families are staying at the covered court of Kasiglahan Pabahay, Rodriguez, Rizal.
Karapatan – Rizal said that the evacuees are experiencing extreme hunger. Affected residents are now calling for tents, water, and food.
According to Karapatan – Rizal, the threat of bombing communities is a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which the government has committed to upholding. They said that IHL aims to protect civilians at all costs, especially in the context of an armed conflict.
“This will endanger the lives of the civilians because of the indiscriminate and extensive damage that may cause to the communities,” Karapatan Rizal added.
Kalikasan People’s Network for Environment (Kalikasan PNE) also expressed alarm about the bombing threat and its looming impact on the environment.
Kalikasan PNE said in a statement that the affected barangays, particularly Mascap, are within or near internationally-identified key biodiversity areas such as Mounts Irid-Angilo and Binuang; and nationally-declared protected areas such as the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape.
They emphasized that the affected areas are habitats for endangered amphibians, birds, mammals, and plants; including the critically-endangered Philippine Eagle.
Given the impending harm to the communities, Karapatan – Rizal is now calling for the local government of Rizal to immediately aid the affected families. They also called on the Commission on Human Rights and International Committee on the Red Cross to probe the ongoing displacement. (RTS, JJE, RVO)