Surigao evacuees need help

Some 2,000 Lumads who fled their homes on November 21 due to “massive military operations” are still in the evacuation centers, a press statement from Sr. Rosemary M. Plaza, MSM, head of secretariat of the Caraga Church People’s Alliance Against Repression (CCPAAR) and Coordinator of the  Socio-Pastoral Institutel;  Sr. Elsa E. Compuesto, MSM, Executive Secretary, Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN); and Pastor Modesto Villasanta of the UCCP, chair of Karapatan in Surigao del Sur.

The three groups are initiating the Christmas 2007 Solidarity Mission to the Surigao del Sur Evacuees on  December 6 and 7.  the Mission involves pastoral visit with the evacuees in the three main evacuation centers in Brgy. Diatagon in Lianga, Brgy. Buhisan and Brgy. Janipaan in San Agustin; distribution of relief goods; medical services and solidarity program and ecumenical liturgy at the Brgy. Diatagon Gym.
According to the press statement, at least 500 members of the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion conducted military operations in Lumad communities since November 1, setting up camp in Simowao and Emerald (Km 9 in the old logging road) in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.  

“Bringing 6×6 trucks, armored personnel carriers,  two 105-howitzer cannons pointing towards the populated mountain communities and hi-tech laptop computers, generators, solar panels, monitors and antennae, the soldiers lived in, under and around civilian homes, using them as human shields to protect themselves from attacks,” they said.

The last time military operations also displaced the villagers was in 2005.

After the wide open spaces, the fresh air and fresh food that they are used to in their communities, more than 500 families are crammed in three evacuation centers.  

“Food is scarce, diseases threaten as hunger looms daily in the horizon,” the statement noted, adding security is uncertain “as misleading statements from the military and even the local mayor accuses them of being NPA (New People’s Army) signifying indifference to their plight,” the statement added.

They also urged the public to share food, clothes, medicines, sleeping mats and blankets for the evacuees.

Earlier, Sister Lydia Lascano, ICM, of the Social Action Center, told MindaNews in a telephoned message that thousands of evachees were "in dire need of food, especially rice; sleeping mats, blankets and medicines."
"Food supply is already dangerously low. Three children had convusions. Evacuee count swells to more than 2,000 as shelling reported as of late afternoon November 24," she said. (MindaNews)