Gov't to increase police visibility in Masbate schools amid clashes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 24) - The government plans to increase police visibility in schools in Masbate, where clashes have erupted between security forces and communist rebels, Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr. said Friday.

Galvez said the Philippine Army's 9th Infantry Division and the Philippine National Police's (PNP) Regional Command in Bicol plan to conduct a peace and order council meeting to address the current situation in the province.

He added that quick reaction teams have already been deployed to assist affected locals - particularly students and teachers whose school was near the site of the clashes.

"School officials were also briefed on how to react appropriately to a similar situation involving firefights or IED (improvised explosive devices) incidents in areas with close proximity to learning institutions," Galvez said.

Face-to-face classes in elementary and secondary schools have been suspended in four Masbate towns, said Mayflor Marie Jumamil, Department of Education-Bicol information division chief.

These towns are Placer, Dimasalang, Uson, and Cataingan.

On Wednesday, two soldiers were wounded in a clash with rebels in Brgy. Locso-an, Placer.

Another encounter in Brgy. Gaid, Dimasalang also left two police officers injured.

Government troops are on heightened alert for the upcoming anniversary of the New People's Army - the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines - on March 29.