source: danny o. calleja | vox bikol.com
SORSOGON CITY, Nov. 24 -– The local unit of the communist rebel movement in Sorsogon has declared a unilateral suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) in areas near the restive Bulusan Volcano.
The SOMO declaration that took effect last November 22 covers the 10-kilometer radius from the crater of the volcano whose current restlessness has been placed by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) under alert level one.
In a press statement distributed to local media organizations on Wednesday, Samuel Guerrero who introduced himself as spokesman of Celso Minguez Command (CMC), the local unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) that operates within the area, said the unilateral ceasefire will allow government relief operations for victims of the Bulusan eruptions.
“Utmost concern is being given by the CMC on the preservation of lives and properties of residents around the volcano,” Guerrero said in a statement prepared in Filipino language.
The Sorsogon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) said that as of Tuesday, over 13,560 persons representing some 2,700 families were affected by the series of mild eruptions characterized by massive ash ejections of the volcano since the first occurrence on Nov. 6.
The most severe ash explosion so far took place last Nov. 21 that ejected grayish volcanic ash reaching two kilometers above the volcano’s summit. Thick ash fall affected at least 17 barangays of the municipalities of Irosin, Bulan and Magallanes that are within the 20- kilometer radius of the volcano.
PDRRMO chief Jose Lopez on Wednesday said 225 families from seven barangays of Irosin, Juban and Casiguran have been evacuated to refugee centers established in various schools at safer grounds. The biggest number of evacuees is in Gallanosa High School of Irosin town.
The SOMO which means suspension of all NPA tactical offensive actions against the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) within areas it covers, Guerrero said, will stay at the duration of the abnormal activities of the volcano or until the PHIVOLCS lifts the alert status declared over areas prone to the effects of its eruptions.
Local elements of the PNP, along with soldiers of the 4th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (PA) under its commanding officer Col. Santiago Enginco, have been occupied to attend to the government’s rescue operations and evacuation and relief of the affected residents.
However, Guerrero warned government forces from conducting espionage and gathering of intelligence information from the guerilla zone within the SOMO area as it would be considered hostile acts that call for a defensive action from the NPA.
“Our general policy of active defense is not suspended along with the SOMO, the NPA spokesman added. (PNA)