MANILA — The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government has recorded an increase in the number of people displaced by the armed conflict in Maguindanao province.
The ARMM-Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team noted that the number of evacuees rise to more than 123,000.
The figure jumped from the 100,000 communities recorded in 2003 because of the fighting between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The fighting is now spreading in the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato causing more residents to leave their homes.
It could be noted hat the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. has declared an all-out offensive to suppress the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
The offensive was also launched to arrest suspected Jemaah Islamiyah-liked bomber, Basit Usman.
While almost 22,000 families are now being hosted by 75 evacuation camps, the rest of the evacuees are still staying in the homes of relatives.
In Shariff Saydona Mustapha alone, the government has recorded 2,670 displaced families while 2,637 were evacuated from Mamasapano.
A total of 2,576 families were also recorded displaced in Datu Salibo; 2,774 in Shariff Aquak; 3,459 in Datu Saudi Ampatuan; 1,160 families in Guindulungan; 2,358 in Talayan; 2,218 in Talitay; 1,455 in Datu Unsay; and 1,791 in Datu Anggal Midtimbang.
Several peace networks has united under an All-out Peace campaign and issued an “urgent humanitarian appeal” to suspend the military operations.
“We express our gravest concern over the glaring civilian protection and safety issues caused by the operation … . We are alarmed about the use of artillery shelling and air strikes with bombs reportedly dropped near civilian homes,” the statement of appeal said.
“We categorically state that a humanitarian crisis is already staring us in the face as an effect of the prolonged military action against [the] lawless elements.” it added.