COTABATO CITY – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has expressed its concern for thousands of people from the town of Butig in Lanao del Sur province in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, who remain displaced following clashes between government forces and an armed group in late May to early June.
“Thousands of civilians in Butig were forced to flee their homes in February, when the first clashes began. Some were able to return in April, and just when they started planting a new crop, they were forced to flee their homes again in May, when hostilities resumed.”
“Now many of the displaced are living with relatives and depend heavily on their kin and the authorities, as they are still too afraid to go back home. Civilian houses were also destroyed in the fighting. We ask all sides in the conflict to exercise utmost precaution to protect civilians and their property,” Dominic Earnshaw, head of the ICRC office in Cotabato City, said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
He said between June 8 and July 2, the ICRC, together with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), provided food and household items to some 12,500 people displaced from Butig. The distributions, he added, took place in Butig and neighboring Lumbayanague municipalities as well as in Marawi City.
The ICRC-PRC assistance augmented the aid provided by the government and helped families meet their basic needs, according to the Earnshaw.
Each displaced family received 25 kilograms of rice, 12 tins of sardines, 2 liters of cooking oil, 2 liters of soy sauce, 2 kilograms of sugar, 500 grams of salt, and essential household items, including two blankets, two mosquito nets, one sleeping mat, and one hygiene kit.
Prior to its relief operation in Butig, the ICRC conducted its own assessments and coordinated closely with community leaders, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and nongovernmental organizations.
The clashes were between security forces and a jihadist group under Abdullah Maute. (ICRC, Mindanao Examiner)