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AFP drops more bombs in Abra, Ilocos Sur amid El Niño crisis

On April 2, 2024,  the Philippine Air Force bombed and fired rockets in the area of Gapay Village, Pilar, Abra Province, a mountainous area near the boundary with Ilocos Sur Province. The bombings displaced  and affected the livelihood of 212 families. It also forced the closure of schools and evacuation of families.

The bombing is the most recent in the 22,391 recorded incidents of bombing under the Marcos administration. 

“The indiscriminate bombings by the AFP cause massive physical and economic displacement, and wreak  havoc on farmlands, which are the main source of livelihood of the majority of the peasant population in the Philippines”  the human rights organization, Karapatan wrote in its year-end report.

The aerial attacks are supposed to have taken place after clashes between the New People’s Army and the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.  One soldier was reported wounded.

Officials said the aerial bombardment was to support their troops on the ground and ensure the safe retrieval of the wounded soldier from the area of the firefight.

According to the posts in social media of residents, bombs rained down on them and the airstrikes were near their communities.  Their grain,  corn and tobacco crops were affected by the bombings.  This will make their livelihood more difficult, especially now that they are suffering from El Nino.  Because of the military operations, they cannot return to their fields, especially since some of these crops are ready for harvest.

On April 5, human rights organizations and indigenous groups protested in front of AFP headquarters. The demonstrators demanded the immediate cessation of bombings. They described the bombings as overkill and a reckless display of force.  They called on the AFP to uphold international humanitarian law and  the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an agreement signed between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“[President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s] administration and the AFP continue to carelessly and cruelly put civilian lives in danger through indiscriminate aerial bombings. They openly show us that their military counterinsurgency operations matter more to them than the lives of Filipino citizens,” said Amihan National Chairperson Zenaida Soriano.

Meanwhile, Ilocos farmers’ group Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) pointed out the government could have used the funds for bombs to support drought-stricken farmers

NDF-Ilocos has called for medical and psychosocial support for the victims of the aerial bombings and military operations .  It also called for  “…human rights groups and organizations to investigate the bombings .”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines  unabated bombings in the Philippine countryside  are supposed to hasten their goal to defeat  the New People’s Army (NPA).  This will supposedly allow them to focus their attention to territorial defense against the incurssions of China, especially in the West Philippine sea.