By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
MALIBCONG, Abra — Marcos Sangdaan, the barangay captain of Lat-ey village in Malibcong town, Abra province maintains that the fire that consumed their communal forest was due to the airstrikes by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) amid claims of the Philippine Army that the fleeing New People’s Army rebels caused the fire.
“I stand by the story of my people, that the bombs dropped on our mountains caused the fire, this is what my people witnessed that day, I did not see it myself but they did,” Sangdaan said in an interview last April 5 in Lat-ey village.
Lt. Col. Dominic Baluga told the media earlier that the fleeing NPA rebels torched the forest “to slow down pursuing troops from catching up with them.” He said the bombings were actually just for “marking” purposes.
Baluga further said that they used “white phosphorus” that only emits smoke for the marking.
“Many Lat-ey village folks witnessed the bombing run by the soldiers (military) and they saw the forest catch fire after they felt the bomb explode,” Sangdaan said.
“How could NPA rebels or even civilians start the fire when the bombing run was on going, will they not be afraid of getting hit?” Sangdaan said.
Sangdaan said the forest fire spread so wide that it almost got to their village. He said the fire razed their communal forest and pasture lands.
He further said that the rice fields are now unattended, neglected due to the terror the AFP bombing run caused among Lat-ey folks. “The fire razed the fences that would prevent the cows from destroying the crops in the fields, especially the wider rice fields in Dakungaw where the bulk of the people’s food come from,” he said.
He said the fences in Alang and Ladug rice field areas were destroyed but the people are afraid to go and fix them after the bombing run. # nordis.net