KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 6 Jan) – The humanitarian quick response team of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) distributed Wednesday relief goods to hundreds of families displaced by the recent violence in South Upi town, Maguindanao, an official said.
Myrna Jo Henry, executive assistant for operations of the Ministry of Interior and Local Government’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (MILG-READI), said the military cleared the team to reach the evacuees in Barangay Itaw.
“Our quick response team was scheduled to proceed to the area last Monday but the military prevented them for security reasons. The team was given clearance and as we speak, they are heading to distribute the relief goods and hygiene kits to the evacuees,” she said in a phone interview.
Henry said the MILG-READI prepared over 600 food packs for 599 affected families or 2,970 individuals in Barangay Itaw, which was harassed anew by a faction of the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters starting on the eve of New Year’s Day.
She added the relief distribution was coordinated with the local government of South Upi, whose mayor, Reynalbert Insular, was ambushed last Sunday afternoon.
The ambush, which was claimed by the BIFF’s Bungos faction, resulted in the death of an individual and the wounding of four others.
Insular survived the ambush, the third slay try on him since 2016. The mayor and his convoy just came from Barangay Itaw, where the team spent two days to conduct medical and relief mission there.
The harassment in Barangay Itaw started on December 2 and intensified on December 31 when a band of heavily-armed men burned 13 houses in the village.
A report from the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) obtained by MindaNews said that as of January 5, at least 1,343 families or 6,715 persons have been displaced, mostly from South Upi and some from neighboring Talayan town.
The MSSD on December 11 extended relief goods, consisting of 10 kilos of rice, sardines, sugar and coffee, among others, to 310 displaced families also from Barangay Itaw.
Land conflict has been blamed for the violence that mostly displaced members of the Teduray tribe in South Upi.
According to a report from the Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO), the Bangsamoro government has formed a special task force to address the problem in South Upi.
The task force is composed of the ministries of Indigenous Peoples’ Affair and Public Order and Safety, and the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission, and the Bangsamoro Attorney General’s Office.
In addition, the regional government is also closely coordinating with the South Upi local government unit, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to secure the affected areas and hold those at fault accountable, the BIO said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)