4,000 families cross Pangil Bay to seek refuge in Ozamiz

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:23:00 08/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—More than 4,000 families have fled their homes in Lanao del Norte and crossed over to Misamis Occidental after Moro rebels went on a rampage on Monday, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said Tuesday.

Some 4,700 families from Lanao del Norte sought refuge in Ozamiz City, the capital of neighboring Misamis Occidental, staying in evacuation centers there, Cabral said.

“Our regional staff in both Regions 10 and 12 are conducting stress debriefing and counseling to the evacuees,” she said in an interview by phone.

Another 6,600 families displaced by Monday’s violence in Kauswagan, Kolambugan, Maigo and Bacolod in Lanao del Norte fanned out across the province. Of these, 1,500 families took shelter in evacuation centers in Iligan City, Cabral said.

Another 300 families and 320 families fled their homes in Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces, respectively, after Monday’s violence and sought refuge in evacuation centers in safe areas, according to her.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday ordered a massive humanitarian effort for the displaced residents of Lanao del Norte and Sarangani.

The President has asked Cabral and Health Secretary Francisco Duque to “personally oversee intervention measures,” according to Press Secretary Jesus Dureza.

Ms Arroyo also ordered the National Disaster Coordinating Council to release funds for relief and rehabilitation of affected families.

“The Department of Education and the Department of Public Works and Highways were directed to inspect, assess and immediately take action to rebuild destroyed structures,” Dureza said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development was delivering P2 million worth of provisions, such as rice, canned goods, packs of noodles and dried fish to the thousands of evacuees.

This was on top of P3.8 million allocated for the purchase of food provisions of an earlier batch of evacuees in North Cotabato.

Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima said she also requested assistance from the European Commission for the displaced persons in Mindanao.

“We’ve requested relief aids such as tents, potable water, medicine and the like,” De Lima said in a text message. “They offered aid last week, and was simply awaiting assessment of the CHR through the special team dispatched to Cotabato.”

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross, said volunteers had been barred from entering some conflict areas “for their safety” due to the fighting.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said aid and health workers were “at risk” of being victims of the war.

“We are all affected. We have made emergency measures and all hospitals have been on heightened alert,” he said.

The delivery of relief and medical supplies could have been faster, Gordon said.

But since there are no airports in the cities of Ozamiz and Iligan cities, Red Cross had to have the supplies brought to the airport in Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao, Gordon said. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Kristine L. Alave

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