THOUSANDS of individuals from two towns in Lanao del Sur were displaced after they fled from their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire as the military continued its airstrikes against the remnants of the Maute group.
Based on the statement posted on the official Facebook page of the Provincial Government of Lanao Del Sur, more than 1,000 families or nearly 6,000 individuals were forced to leave their homes and seek shelter in different evacuation centers due to the airstrikes and ground assault by government troops against the terrorist group.
“Ito po ay parte nung ating military operations na sinabi noon na linunsad natin several months ago para matugis natin ang natitirang miyembro ng Maute ISIS,” said Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., Joint Task Force Ranao deputy commander.
(This is part of the military operations that we launched several months ago to go after the remaining members of the Maute-ISIS.)
“Matagal na nating minamanmanan ang grupo na ito in fact noong nakaraang barangay at SK elections itong grupo na ito ang siyang pumatay sa isang kandidato para sa barangay captain dito sa bayan ng Tubaran kaya alam natin nandiyan siya sa area na yan, at recently nung na-engkwentro natin na-confirm natin ang location ng grupo nila that is why we are able to hit them nagkaroon ng airstrike kahapon at ‘yun nga tinamaan natin ang grupo nila at sa ngayon tinutugis pa rin natin tuloy-tuloy pa din ang ating operations,” he added.
(We have long placed this group under surveillance. In the past Barangay and SK elections, this group killed a candidate for barangay captain here in Tubaran town. That's how we knew that they are in this area. A recent encounter confirmed their location which is why we were able to conduct airstrikes yesterday. We are still conducting hot pursuit operations.)
The skirmishes happened at the boundary of the municipalities of Tubaran and Pagayawan, Lanao del Sur.
These areas are near Butig, which is known to be the stronghold of the ISIS-inspired group.
The Maute Group led the siege in Marawi City in 2017. The conflict, from May 23 to October 23, 2017, had prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. The President declared Marawi’s liberation from the terrorists on October 17, 2017.
According to initial reports from Casamila Sedic, Municipal Social Welfare Development Office (MSWDO) of Tubaran, the barangays that are affected by the recent encounter are Wago, Guiarong Tubaran, Malaganding, Tubaran Proper, Madaya, Gaput, Dinaigan and Alog.
An estimated 500 families left their homes and took refuge in evacuation centers in Tangkal Elementary School and National High School while the rest are in the multi-purpose building of Malaganding.
Meanwhile, the MSWDO of the Municipality of Pagayawan, also reported that around 255 families were displaced amid the armed clashes, 57 families of these are in evacuation centers in Toril and Tent evacuation centers. Almost half of the population evacuated. There were some who were trapped in barangays Padas and Diampaca as they cannot leave just yet pending military clearance.
Reportedly, it was in Barangay Guiarong where the firefight erupted. The barangay is located at the boundaries of the Municipality of Tubaran and Pagayawan. Among the barangays affected in Pagayawan are Padas, Guiarong Pagayawan, Linindingan, Diampaca, Bangon, and Madang.
The Municipality of Binidayan reported that as of 8 p.m. Sunday, they have accommodated 723 families or 3,571 individuals from Tubaran and Pagayawan who were affected by the ongoing military pursuit operation of the AFP.
Also, the Barangay Pangalamatan of the Municipality of Binidayan has 222 individuals and 49 families were listed as home-based IDPs. Barangay Poblacion has 311 individuals and 38 families as home-based IDPs.
Meanwhile, Lanao del Sur Governor Bedjoria Soraya Alonto Adiong has already the ordered concerned agencies like the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to closely coordinate with all MDRRMOs, and to provide all the necessary humanitarian response and assistance to the fleeing civilians.
“She also ordered the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) to continuously communicate with MSWDOs, and to prepare relief goods to be distributed to the IDPs once there is clearance from the AFP stating that it is safe to go to Tubaran, Pagayawan and other affected areas,” the statement read.
The governor also urged the public to remain calm, alert, and pray for everyone’s safety. She has ordered the Provincial Information Office (PIO) to continuously coordinate with the AFP for updates on the situation to give the public timely report on the incident. (With SunStar Philippines)