MARUGONG, Lanao del Sur (MindaNews/02 April) — Quiet but looking desperate, evacuees from Marugong and three other municipalities of Lanao del Sur lined up as a convoy of trucks carrying aid rolled into this dusty town on Sunday.
Far away from the gunfire, bombs and artillery, volunteers of the International Committee of the Red Cross distributed food and non-food items to the internally displaced persons.
Each package contained a 25-kilo bag of rice, 12 small canned sardines, cooking oil, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and sleeping mats, blankets, and plastic wash basins and pails.
“That is enough for a family of five to survive for 15 days,” Zehabudin Guro, ICRC chief in Iligan City, said.
Guro said the ICRC had distributed food and non-food aid packages to 1,800 families or 9,000 persons affected by Army operations against remnants of the Daesh-inspired Maute group that seized Marawi City in 2017.
He said the affected families came from the towns of Tubaran, Pagayawan, Binidayan and Marugong.
The month-long offensive left two soldiers and at least six militants including its leader, Humam Abdul Najib or Abu Dar, dead.
The ICRC said a total of 50,000 persons from the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon have been affected by military operations against militants and the communist rebels.
Meher Khatcherian, outgoing ICRC station chief in Iligan said living conditions are difficult for those living in evacuation centers.
“They have limited access to water and sanitary facilities. Food is not sufficient,” he said.
There are also problems that aggravated the humanitarian situation in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.
Dayan Ayonga, a 36-year-old mother of five children, smiled as she carried the aid package that was too heavy that a male relative had to help her to a waiting motorcycle.
Ayonga said she had to get the relief goods in Binidayan town because local politics has muddled the distribution in Marugong town.
“I belong to a clan which is opposed to the town mayor. So I was not included in the master list of qualified evacuees of the town,” Ayusan claimed.
Another Tubaran resident, Alicasan Abbas, said many IDPs from Tubaran town are living in the houses of their relatives in Binidayan.
He said the families of five of his relatives opted to stay in his house in Binidayan.
For food, Abbas said all of them contributed whatever they could afford.
“I rather they stay in my house than at the evacuation site in Tubaran where they are unwelcomed by the mayor,” he said.
Assemblyman Zia Adiong of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the humanitarian situation is aggravated by the lack of funding for the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Adiong said the Department of Budget and Management has yet to release the P31 billion allotment for BARMM.
He said a resolution from Congress is needed to change the recipient of the budget from ARMM to BARMM.
“Right now, the towns under the new BARMM is living on shoestring budget until the DBM releases the money,” he said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)