ARMM assists 2,000 displaced in Basilan fire

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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will assist some 2,000 villagers displaced by a conflagration in Isabela City, Basilan on Saturday despite the city being outside the ARMM’s jurisdiction.

Initial reports reaching the regional office of the Bureau of Fire Protection-ARMM said more than 500 houses were razed in Saturday’s fire in Barangay Kaumpurnah, a seaside village in Isabela City.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman on Sunday said the regional government’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) will extend relief and rehabilitation services to the affected villagers.

“Isabela City is not within the ARMM’s administrative coverage but we will help just the same,” said Hataman, who has ministerial supervision over HEART’s operation.

While Basilan is a component-province of the autonomous region, Isabela City, former capital of Basilan, is under Administrative Region 9.

Residents of Isabela City rejected the inclusion of their barangays into the expanded autonomous region in a plebiscite in August 2001.

Only voters in the six towns in Basilan, which also belonged to Region 9 during the plebiscite, voted in favor of the geographical realignment of their municipalities into ARMM’s expanded territory.

Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, Basilan police director, is now helping the BFP-ARMM validate the number of houses destroyed by the fire, which started early Saturday.

“The initial estimate indicates no less than 500 houses were destroyed. More than 2,000 villagers were affected accordingly,” Hataman said.

Hataman and his spouse Anak Mindanao Party-list Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman will distribute relief supplies to the fire victims on Monday, ahead of the HEART’s humanitarian mission.

Almost all of the affected villagers are Muslims observing the Ramadhan, according to Hataman.

He said personnel of the Basilan provincial police are now helping the city government of Isabela attend to the needs of the fire victims.

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