Evacuees won’t leave holding centers yet for fear of surge in fighting

Director Zorahayda Taha of the Region 12 office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said that "the evacuees preferred to stay in the evacuation center in Pikit due to fear that clashes would again erupt between the warring clans in Pagalungan because of political issue".

Another group of evacuees displaced by a separate fighting between government soldiers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters in Midsayap, North Cotabato, have also expressed the same sentiment when Taha visited them.

The Pagalungan evacuees abandoned their homes and farms April 13 to avoid getting caught in the armed conflict between the Montawal and Matalam clans, which contested the top political posts in the town.

Taha led the distribution of relief goods in Mahad evacuation center in Pikit, North Cotabato, where majority of the evacuees have sought temporary shelter. She also directed a feeding program for children.

A total of 1,500 families received pack of goods composed of three kilos of rice, canned goods, milk and noodles.

The East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve, a non-government organization, donated to the DSWD 1,000 sacks of rice for the relief operation.

"I have directed our social workers in the area to conduct supplemental feeding for children age 0-5 in the evacuation site," Taha said.

In nearby Midsayap town, meantime, Taha said some 245 evacuees were still staying in a temporary evacuation center since the time that the military and MILF fighters clashed in Barangay Mudseng and Barangay Rangaban.

Taha said local officials in both affected areas were currently trying to convince evacuees to return to their respective places once the peace and order would be stabilized.

She said the evacuees could return to their places next week following the assurance of safety made by village officials.