Supply squeeze leaves evacuees in hunger

MARAWI CITY • Mr Abdulwahid Macabangon, 96, and his three-year-old great-grandson are holed up in a house in Pindoguan, Bubong Ramain in Lanao del Sur province, away from the scene of fighting between ISIS-inspired militants and government forces in the southern Philippine city of Marawi.

But relatives and family members who are now in Iligan are worried about their food and medical needs and have been seeking help to have them evacuated. To get to them, one has to pass through Marawi, and access is still barred by the authorities because of continued clashes as the crisis enters its 11th day.

The possibility of rescuing the Macabangons and other civilians still trapped in the besieged city may come soon with the setting up of a "peace corridor", a neutral zone where humanitarian groups may evacuate wounded and trapped civilians, and retrieve the dead, or provide safe space so food and other supplies can reach rural areas.

The idea of a peace corridor was taken up during President Rodrigo Duterte's meeting with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Davao City on Tuesday. "Having such a space will hopefully contribute to easing the humanitarian situation in Lanao del Sur," said Marawi-based broadcaster Abul Alibasa, who now resides in Iligan.

Mr Alibasa, a volunteer relief worker for Ranao Rescue Team, said there was a need to bring food supply into towns where evacuees were staying.

According to Mr Pendatun Disimban of civil society group Bangsamoro Solidarity Network, food supply has tightened in several towns as indicated by the increase in the prices of basic goods.

Mr Disimban said their local monitors reported that in Tamparan town, for example, rice was sold at 100 pesos (S$2.80) per kg, a more than 120 per cent increase from its price prior to the crisis. "If this situation persists, we are worried that both evacuees and host families could go hungry," Mr Disimban said.

On Tuesday, civil society, religious and traditional leaders of Lanao del Sur renewed their appeal to Mr Duterte "to take decisive steps to ease the humanitarian situation" in the province.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Supply squeeze leaves evacuees in hunger'. Print Edition | Subscribe