Mindanao: 500,000 people without food because of the war
by Santosh Digal
The Filipino government is set to investigate into the situation of half a million displaced people who could starve to death as a result of fighting between army and MILF. Humanitarian organisations warn that with the end of Ramadan the situation might get worse.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The Filipino government ordered today an investigation into allegations that some 500,000 Mindanao residents displaced by fighting between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces might be starving.

Since last August refugees have had to flee their homes as a result of increasing fighting caused by the failure of the two parties to sign the Memorandum of Agreement after it was invalidated by the Filipino Supreme Court. The agreement designated the areas that were to be included in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Several humanitarian agencies have taken various initiatives to cope with the lack of food. Their task has been made difficult though, not only because of the fighting, but also because of a series of natural disasters (i.e. typhoons). And the end of the sacred month of Ramadan at the end of September could set off a full-scale war.

Experts with humanitarian organisations described the situation as the worst humanitarian crisis in the area in five years.

According to local aid workers, the government has so far been unable to provide the required assistance to war-affected populations; it also appears to be shying away from supporting appeals for foreign aid that could politicize and “internationalize” the problem.

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), formed under a previous accord to oversee rehabilitation once peace comes to Mindanao, is now shifting to “disaster management.” But at least its leaders have focused on honesty and transparency in a country where corruption reaches the highest levels of government.

After drawing a dire picture of the situation in southern Philippines they have warned of what might happen should war resume after Ramadan. “We’re preparing for the worst,” they said.

In fact fighting has already erupted anew between advancing government forces and MILF rebels in the hinterlands of Lanao del Sur.

The clash lasted about 15 minutes; no casualties were reported.