AUTONOMOUS Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) has finally allowed over 20,000 evacuees staying in evacuation centers in Maguindanao to go home.

In its February 5 meeting in Cotabato City, the RDCC tackled concerted measures to end the agony of evacuees that have been staying in 78 refuge centers in 15 Maguindanao towns since the breakout of fighting between military and rebels in August 2008.

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Acting Armm Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong, who chairs the Armm's RDCC, said the regional government and some partner agencies would help put in place mechanisms that will assist the evacuees in going back to their places of origin and live a normal life.

Armm executive secretary Naguib Sinarimbo said physiological and psychological interventions would be carried out on the evacuees, who have not only been economically dislocated but also suffered from trauma spawned by the fierce fighting between military and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants in 2008.

Social welfare workers said more than 23,000 of the displaced families have already returned to their respective homes in Maguindanao, but the evacuation problem was aggravated by the November 23, 2009 massacre and the martial law imposition that forced several villagers to flee their homes.

Sinarimbo, who later presided the RDCC-Armm meeting, pointed out that the Adiong administration "is serious to address the issues pertaining to IDPs."

"We'd come up with specific actions to address the return of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) to their places of origin and live a normal life," Sinarimbo quoted Adiong as saying.

He said all concerned Armm agencies would poll resources to strengthen Municipal Disaster Coordinating Councils and coordinate with partner humanitarian agencies working in the ground to help the evacuees in their safe return or resettlement.

Apart from the civilian agency-members, the RDCC meeting was attended by military officials, Philippine National Police, local government units, non-government-organizations and humanitarian donor agencies.

Major Carlos Sol Jr., head of the secretariat of the government-MILF coordinating committee on cessation of hostilities (CCCH) and International Monitoring Team, lauded the efforts of the RDCC-Armm in creating a body to harmonize all the efforts relative to the evacuees' plight.

Representatives of LGU in 15 Maguindanao towns said the evacuees they host could smoothly return to their places of origin with the assistance of the CCCH representatives for their economic rehabilitation.

Records from the Armm's Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) showed that as of January 5, 2010, 20,276 families were still staying at the 78 evacuation centers in 15 towns in the province, while 23,104 families have already relocated and returned since September last year.

DSWD-Armm, with partner World Food Programme, is ready for the "pabaon" of returning IDPs while the International Organization for Migration, Act for Peace Programme and other donors are constructing shelters. (BOT)