Vizcaya gov bans tourists in cave attraction

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Governor Carlos Padilla here on Thursday has discouraged local and foreign tourists from visiting the world-class cave systems in Kasibu town following a recent bloody encounter between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government soldiers.

Padilla ordered the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRMMO) and the Provincial Tourism Office to make an advisory over the social media regarding the unstable peace and order situation in Kasibu town, home of the Capissaan Cave System.

“We are advising tourists planning to come to our province and visit our cave systems here to temporary suspend their itinerary until such time that their security and safety will be assured by our authorities concerned,” Padilla said.

He made the statement after Philippine National Police officials bared the on-going heightened military operations in the upland barangays of Kasibu town which also host the gold-copper project of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. in barangay Didipio.

Padilla also asked the officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Provincial Engineering Office to advise the private contractors to suspend their works near the hotspot areas to prevent being affected by the military operations.

Government infrastructure projects are being implemented in barangays Muta and Papaya, among others in Kasibu towns.

The military’s heightened anti-insurgency combat operations was launched by the government forces after a recent encounter between the members of the Philippine Army and NPA rebels in sitios Upper Maglan and Tigue in barangay Pacquet and the neighboring barangays of Bilet and Dine in Kasibu town.

The encounter resulted in the death of four soldiers and injuring another.

Gladys Lunag, deputy Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officer of Kasibu, said at least 1,553 evacuees from the conflict zones have sought refuge in the separate schools and barangay halls in neighboring barangays of Pacquet, Pao, Kakiduguen and Siguem.

“We were able to provide them iniitial relief goods but their number is increasing due to fear of being caught in the impending crossfire between government forces and NPA rebels,” Lunag said.

Ma. Theresa Iglesia, a staff of the Department of Education (DepEd) schools division office here, said at least 1,300 elementary schoolers and teachers have been affected after their classes were temporarily suspended.

Police Supt. Joseph Dela Cruz, Philippine National Police-Deputy Police Director for Operations, said members of the NPA are now scouring the Nueva Vizcaya’s upland boundaries with Nueva Ecija, Eastern Pangasinan, Aurora, Quirino, and Ifugao provinces.

Dela Cruz said a crisis management committee has been formed in Kasibu town chaired by Mayor Alberto Bumolo Jr. with members of the military and the police to contain and respond to the needs of the affected communities.

“We have also set up blocking forces in possible exit routes of NPA rebels including checkpoints to contain them,” the PNP official added. ALM/Benjamin Moses Ebreo/PIA 2