Filipino Church’s appeal for Marawi's displaced persons

More than 60,000 residents have been evacuated. Caritas Philippines sent a letter to 85 dioceses. Some US$ 6,000 are provided for the efforts in the Diocese of Iligan. Caritas Manila provides US$ 10,000 and 100 bags of rice. Mindanao dioceses supports Marawi Prelature in helping families. The clashes between government forces and jihadists continue. Ilang is cordoned off due to fear of Islamist infiltrations. Nothing is known about Fr Chito, who was abducted by jihadists with another 15 people.

Mindanao (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Caritas Philippines yesterday launched a "solidarity appeal" to the country’s dioceses to extend help to people displaced from Marawi by the fighting between government troops and the Maute terrorist group.

“The national Caritas is now appealing to your generosity for any assistance to augment the needs of the internally displaced persons affected by the Marawi siege,” said Caritas Philippines head Cáceres Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona in a letter to 85 dioceses and social action directors nationwide.

The agency has released 300,000 Php (US$ 6,000) to support the efforts of Diocese of Iligan, whilst Caritas Manila has sent an initial sum of 500,000 Php (US$ 10,000) as well as 100 bags of rice.

Responding to the call, some Mindanao dioceses have assisted the Marawi Prelature in helping displaced families. Thousands of them have been evacuated from the city and are now in different reception centres, in Iligan and nearby towns.

The archbishop said a Caritas Philippines assessment team has been deployed to Mindanao this week to further check on the needs of those affected.

Bishop Tirona also said that there are no updates yet on the status of Marawi Prelature Vicar General Fr Chiro Suganod and 15 other civilians, who were abducted by the Maute group from the city’s Cathedral on 23 May.

The Diocese of Iligan called on the government to take measures to improve security for displaced families at evacuation centres due to terror threats.

Diocesan Caritas Coordinator Fe Soccoro Salimbangon said that security in evacuation sites is one of the major concerns as of the moment, alongside the dearth of food, water and other supplies.

“There are no reports that evacuation centres are being targeted but the entire city and the entire province of Lanao Del Norte are under red alert already,” she said.

As clashes continue, authorities locked down Iligan City on Monday over fears that Maute rebels had sneaked out of Marawi by blending in with civilians.

Meanwhile, the government in Manila has released some information regarding the emergency in Mindanao.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) estimated that some 60,000 residents were displaced by the fighting in Marawi, the country’s most Islamic city, with most of them staying with relatives and friends instead of going to government shelters.

As of Monday, the DSWD said 59,665 people or 12,509 families from 26 villages in Marawi and in neighbouring towns of Lanao del Sur were in the homes of relatives and friends.

Only 4,278 persons or 1,018 families are in 14 evacuation centres set up in Lanao del Sur and neighbouring Lanao del Norte province.

So far, the DSWD has provided 1.2 million Php (US$ 25,000) worth of relief goods mainly to affected families staying in evacuation centres.

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said DSWD field personnel on Sunday started distributing food packs to displaced residents temporarily staying in ten villages in Iligan City.

Taguiwalo urged those displaced by the conflict to register with barangay (local) officials so they could be assisted.